INTERNATIONAL Recordings Of The Year 2012
Click on cover image to read the full
La Mer, Prélude à l’après-midi
d’un faune, Images Ntl O de France/Daniele
Gatti rec. 2011 SONY CLASSICAL 88697 974002
Many reviewers found Chando's 2 SA-CD set of Debussy
orchestral works (with the RSNO/Denève) to be the
finest recording of Debussy released this year. For me,
this release was even more impressive, in large part because
the orchestra plays with great and intensity, while Gatti’s
interpretations perfectly capture the fire and ice of
Debussy’s music that so often eludes other conductors.
Symphony 1 Carl NIELSEN
Symphony 3 Antonín
DVORÁK Symphony 9
Symphony 5 Danish Ntl SO/Thomas Dausgaard rec.
2009 C MAJOR
This was, far and away, the best orchestral DVD to come
across my desk this year. Dausgaard proves to be an intelligent
and perceptive interpreter of all four works, while his
Danish players perform with a contagious sense of joy
The Passing of the Year, Who killed Cock Robin?, It
sounded as if the streets were running, I am the day,
The Three Kings Convivium Singers/Neil
Ferris Christopher Cromar (piano) rec. 2011 NAXOS
Dove was a composer new to me, and I was enthralled by
the music on this recording. Excellently performed by
the Convivium Singers, Dove’s writing is often achingly
beautiful and his text setting is masterly, often reminding
me of Benjamin Britten.
Yuja Wang (piano) rec. 2011 DEUTSCHE
I had not heard any of Miss Wang recordings before this
CD, and I admit being put off by Deutsche Grammophon’s
publicity department, which often seemed more focused
on her looks than her playing. That skepticism was gone
after the first track – here is a player with excellent
technique, married to supreme musicality.
Symphony 5 London PO/Klaus Tennstedt rec. 1988
ICA CLASSICS ICAD5041
Tennstedt, looking a little bit fragile and dishevelled,
inspires a performance of near hysterical proportions
from his beloved London orchestra. Mahler’s harrowing
journey from darkness to light is compellingly conveyed
in this fantastic performance.
For once I could quite easily
have chosen more than just six recordings. The generous
birthday gift of a 50" high definition TV and a Blu-ray
player has hugely enhanced my pleasure in watching ballet
and opera performances this year and explains in large
part the bias away from sound-only CDs in my final selection.
Les sylphides Léo
Adolphe ADAM Giselle
Nadia Nerina, Margot Fonteyn, Ruydolf Nureyev,
Philharmonia O/Robert Irving, London SO/John Lanchbery
rec. 1957/62 ICA CLASSICS ICAD5058
These may be 50 years old black and white television
recordings, but a superb Coppelia places it right at the
top of my list. The charismatic Nadia Nerina displays
a delightful sense of fun as Swanilda while Robert Helpmann
offers a memorably bonkers - yet very touching - portrayal
of the mad doctor. With excellent support in depth, this
is vintage British ballet at its best.
Raymonda Olesia Novikova, Friedemann
Vogel, Mick Zeni, Ballet & O Teatro alla Scala/Michail
Jurowski rec. 2011 ARTHAUS MUSIK 108051
Here we have a modern (re)production of another classic
ballet. Immense and painstaking research and massive -
and obviously expensive - resources have gone into La
Scala’s 2012 recreation of Glazunov's Raymonda.
It's as close to the original 1898 St Petersburg production
as we are ever likely to see and is an absolute treat
- especially in fabulous Blu-ray quality - for both eyes
Josephs-Legende Bayerischen Staatsoper O München/Robert
Heger rec. 1952 ACANTA 233593
Here's a sixty years old recording that's been well worth
reissuing. Though unable to compete with its modern competitors'
digital sound, Robert Heger’s 1952 recording compensates
with expert conducting and first class playing by musicians
utterly familiar with Strauss’s idiom. A superb
vintage account of an unduly neglected score.
Andrea Chénier Hector Sandoval,
Scott Hendricks, Norma Fantini, Prague Philharmonic Ch,
Bregenz Festival Ch, Vienna SO/Ulf Schirmer rec. 2011
C MAJOR 707908
The Bregenz Festival is well known for the use its lakeside
productions make of gigantic sets and props – and
this visually striking Andrea Chenier is no exception.
The unexpected insertion of a couple of musical “interludes”
by contemporary composer David Blake may jar with some
viewers, but the production’s attractive and enthusiastic
young principals will win over many more.
Don Quixote Robert Helpmann, Rudolf
Nureyev, Ray Powell, Australian Ballet, Elizabethan Trust
Melbourne O/John Lanchbery rec. 1972 KULTUR BD1175
On a personal level Nureyev could be monstrously obnoxious
and here he pretty obviously fails to gel with the rest
of the cast. But, as a piece of ambitiously filmed dance
that utilises the immense spaces of an Australian aircraft
hangar (!), this leaves many of its less ambitious rivals
in the shade. Its recent technical restoration in this
Blu-ray incarnation has brought the glorious original
colour palette up as good as new.
Capriccio espagnol, Overtures Seattle Symphony/
Gerard Schwarz rec. 2010/11 NAXOS 8.572788
This is another demonstration of the high standards of
performance that Gerard Schwarz has achieved in a long-term
relationship with this orchestra. Rimsky’s evocative
scores with their characteristically colourful orchestrations
are a gift to conductors of an extrovert disposition;
Schwarz takes full advantage of the opportunity they offer
to bring the house down.
Theodora David Daniels (counter-tenor)
Dawn Upshaw (soprano) Lorraine Hunt (mezzo) Glyndebourne
Ch, O Age of Enlightenment /William Christie rec. 1996
A beautifully sung live recording of some
of Handel's finest music starring the late, lamented Lorraine
Hunt (before she became Hunt Lieberson).
Complete Waltzes and Impromptus Vladimir Feltsman
(piano) rec. 2010 NIMBUS NI6184
The English Suites Vladimir Feltsman (piano)
rec. 2005 NIMBUS ALLIANCE NI6176
Two superb recordings from perhaps the finest
and certainly the most versatile pianist before the public
The Complete Symphonies Vienna PO/Christian Thielemann
rec. 2008-10 SONY CLASSICAL 88697927172
A Beethoven Symphonies Cycle for the 21C,
embracing a compromise between the traditional and the
revisions in performance practice imbibed from the historically
Symphony 3, Caprice bohémien, Vocalise
Royal Liverpool PO/Vasily Petrenko rec. 2009/10
EMI CLASSICS 6790192
A flawless recording from a reinvigorated
Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by one
of the up-and-coming young Russian maestros who are doing
so much to enliven the British classical music scene.
Symphonies 4, 7 & 9 Philharmonie Festiva/Gerd
Schaller rec. 2007-10 HÄNSSLER PROFIL PH11028
A really impressive addition to the Bruckner
discography: three of the most popular symphonies recorded
from live performances in excellent sound and including
a splendid realisation of the Carragan completion of the
fourth movement of the Ninth .
Selecting six of the year’s best recordings has
never been so difficult. In all the time I’ve reviewed
for MWI I’ve not had so many candidates to choose
from. These are the ones that made it to the not-so-shortlist:
Kalevi Aho’s Interludes and Symphony for Organ –
BIS download; Britten’s War Requiem – Gianandrea
Noseda/LSO Live; Leonard Bernstein’s live Shostakovich
Fifth and Stravinsky/Sibelius – Euroarts and ICA
DVDs respectively; Debussy’s Faune, La mer and Jeux
– high-resolution Linn/Universal download; Hakim
plays Hakim – Signum; Kinshasa Symphony –
C Major/Unitel Blu-ray; Koechlin’s Les heures persanes
– Ralph van Raat/Naxos; Simone Young’s Mahler
‘Resurrection’ – Oehms; the Graf/Houston
Das Lied von der Erde – Naxos; Andris Nelsons’
live Wagner, Strauss and Shostakovich Eighth from Lucerne
– C Major/Unitel Blu-ray; Mark Wigglesworth’s
Shostakovich Symphonies 1-3 – BIS download; Yutaka
Sado/Berliner Philharmoniker live in Takemitsu’s
From me flows what you call time and Shostakovich’s
Fifth – Euroarts Blu-ray; and Kalevi Kiviniemi plays
the organ of Ylistaro Church – Fuga.
Cello Concerto 2, Modificata, Percussion Concerto
Truls Mørk (cello) Colin Currie (percussion)
Helsinki PO/John Storgårds rec. 2011 ONDINE
Ondine’s ongoing Rautavaara cycle has surely reached
its apogee with this astonishing disc, which includes
an unforgettable Modificata and Colin Currie’s splendid
performance of the Percussion Concerto. As if that weren’t
enough, the sound on this CD is among the best I’ve
ever heard. Without a doubt, this is my Recording of the
Symphony 2 Sarah Connolly (mezzo) Christiane
Oelze (soprano) Gewandhaus Leipzig Ch & O/Riccardo
Chailly rec. 2011 ACCENTUS ACC10238
After an exhausting double centenary that spawned a fair
number of ho-hum Mahler recordings comes a ‘Resurrection’
to die for. Riccardo Chailly and his Gewandhaus forces
are simply transported – and transporting –
in this live performance, filmed at the 2012 Leipzig Mahlerfest.
Visually and aurally this Accentus Blu-ray is as good
as it gets.
Symphonie fantastique, Béatrice et Bénédict
Overture Scottish CO/Robin Ticciati rec. 2011
News of Robin Ticciati and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra’s
impending Symphonie fantastique was greeted with scepticism
on several audio forums. I confess to some doubts, all
of which were swept away by this refreshing and insightful
performance. Rarely have I heard an old favourite so comprehensively
enriched and renewed. Linn’s Super Audio recording
is top-notch too.
Tsujii (piano) Live at Carnegie Hall rec. 2011
‘A profound and bewitching talent’ is how
I described the young Japanese pianist Nobuyuki Tsujii.
Blind since birth he gave an enthralling and varied recital
at Carnegie Hall in November 2011 that soon exhausted
my supply of superlatives. In a world full of note-perfect
prodigies this thoughtful, impassioned artist is one to
watch. The Blu-ray sound and picture are excellent.
Turangalîla-Symphonie Steven Osborne
(piano) Cynthia Millar (ondes martenot) Bergen PO/Juanjo
Mena rec. 2011 HYPERION CDA67816
One of the joys of downloads is that they often appear
before the discs themselves. I downloaded this new Turangalîla
within hours of its appearance and was so bowled over
that I persuaded Len to publish it on the main MWI site
without delay. Juanjo Mena and the Bergen Philharmonic
are revelatory in this sprawling, mystico-spiritual epic,
whose every ‘fart and shriek’ is superbly
captured by the Hyperion team. Mandatory listening for
all Messiaen fans.
Ballet and Opera Transcriptions Vladimir Ashkenazy
(piano) rec. 1995 DECCA ELOQUENCE 480 3605
This is my wild card, an Eloquence reissue of Prokofiev’s
ballet and opera transcriptions played with easeful virtuosity
by the great Vladimir Ashkenazy. His sophisticated touch
and felicities of rhythm are sans pareil; indeed, he makes
all those young pretenders sound brash and brittle by
comparison. It’s in vintage Decca sound as well;
the piano is naturally balanced and glowingly recorded.
A little gem.
|Either this has been a particularly
rich year or else I’ve been extremely fortunate in
the quality of the discs that have come my way for review.
My shortlist, compiled as the year went along, eventually
extended to over a dozen releases. With great difficulty
– and even greater regret - I have discarded such
excellent releases as Herreweghe’s latest account
of the B Minor Mass and Sir John Eliot Gardiner’s
new versions of the Bach Motets and Brahms Requiem. Similarly,
Juanjo Mena’s impressive Turangal?la-Symphonie narrowly
missed the cut, as did Stephen Layton’s wonderful
recording of the serene Requiem by Howells and a very fine
set of music by Alec Roth from Ex Cathedra. Andris Nelson’s
superb DVD of the Shostakovich Eighth Symphony was one of
my six choices until the very last minute when his DVD of
War Requiem became an even more urgent selection.
All the releases that I’ve chosen, which I’ve
deliberately listed in alphabetical order – and
those mentioned above - have given me particular pleasure
and I hope that if you acquire them they’ll have
the same effect on you.
The RIAS Bach Cantatas Project conducted by Karl
Ristenpart rec. 1949-52 AUDITE 21.415
This set was a revelation: Bach cantatas recorded between
1946 and 1953 but in a style that puts the performances
closer to that of the period performance revolution that
lay years ahead. The conductor, Karl Ristenpart, used
a chamber choir and orchestra and the results are light
and fresh. Outstanding among the soloists are Agnes Giebel,
Helmut Krebs and the young Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. Ristenpart
conducts with great distinction and with a real feeling
for the spirit of Bach. These performances constitute
a major addition to the discography of Bach’s cantatas.
War Requiem Erin Wall (soprano) Mark Padmore
(tenor) Hanno Müller-Brachmann (bass-baritone) City
of Birmingham SO & Ch/Andris Nelsons rec. 2012
ARTHAUS MUSIK 101659
This DVD documents a deeply moving performance of War
Requiem given in Coventry Cathedral on the exact anniversary
of its first performance there fifty years earlier. The
performance, under the inspired direction of Andris Nelsons,
is superb in every way and the solo contributions of Mark
Padmore and Hanno Müller-Brachmann are outstanding.
Edward ELGAR The
Apostles Rebecca Evans, Alice Coote, Paul
Groves, Hallé Ch & O/Sir Mark Elder rec. 2012
Recorded live, this marvellous performance of The Apostles
is the latest in Sir Mark Elder’s exceptional series
of Elgar recordings with the Hallé. A strong team
of soloists and the excellent choir and orchestra make
a very strong case for this unjustly neglected oratorio.
Once again, Elder proves himself an instinctive and authoritative
Requiem, In all his works, I am the voice of the wind
Song for Athene Francis
POTT When David heard Vasari
Singers/Jeremy Backhouse rec. 2011 NAXOS 8.573049
The Vasari Singers offer the first recording of a beautiful
and thoughtful setting of the Requiem, which they commissioned
from Gabriel Jackson in 2008. This work - and the other
pieces by Jackson on the disc - confirms him as one of
the most interesting composers of contemporary choral
music with a natural affinity for the human voice and
a fine empathy for words. This is an excellently sung
and moving programme of fine modern music for unaccompanied
Elijah Sarah Connolly (mezzo) Simon
Keenlyside (baritone) Wroclaw Philharmonic Ch; Gabrieli
Young Singers Scheme, Gabrieli Consort & Players/Paul
McCreesh rec. 2011/12 SIGNUM CLASSICS SIGCD300
Paul McCreesh recreates the vast forces that took part
in the première of Elijah in Birmingham in 1846.
With exciting and highly skilled singing and playing from
his Anglo-Polish forces McCreesh leads a revelatory and
often thrilling account of Mendelssohn’s choral
masterpiece. Simon Keenlyside, in the title role, and
Sarah Connolly are outstanding among the soloists.
The Bells Sergei
PROKOFIEV Alexander Nevsky
Sergei Leiferkus (baritone) BBC SO & Ch,
Philharmonia Ch & O/Evgeny Svetlanov rec 1988/2002
ICA CLASSICS ICAC5069
The release of this hugely exciting disc marked the tenth
anniversary of Evgeny Svetlanov’s death. He was
in poor health when he conducted this performance of The
Bells but this electrifying performance sounds like the
work of a fully fit man in his forties. It was to be his
last concert; a matter of days later he died so it’s
good that his final performance shows him at his considerable
best. The live account of Prokofiev’s Alexander
Nevsky, given in 1988 is also pretty special. This is
a phenomenal issue!
Along with my six selections,
I also want to mention two Harmonia Mundi CDs which MusicWeb
did not, unfortunately, get an opportunity to review:
the Jerusalem Quartet playing Schumann with pianist Alexander
Melnikov, and Melnikov yet again but this time in Shostakovich's
piano concertos and violin sonata (with Isabelle Faust).
Diabelli Variations Andreas Staier (fortepiano)
rec. 2010 HARMONIA MUNDI HMC902091
These are the Diabelli Variations of a dozen composers,
including Liszt, Schubert, Mozart's son, Beethoven (naturally),
and, yes, Andreas Staier himself, in a really superb introductory
piece. There's a joyfulness and humour to Staier's performance
which sets it apart, and there might even be an 1830s
String Quintet Anton ARENSKY
String Quartet 2 Alexander
BORODIN String Sextet Nash
Ensemble rec. 2011 ONYX CLASSICS 4067
A perfect pairing of neglected masterworks. This is the
best way to hear the glorious Arensky quartet for violin,
viola and two cellos, an elegy for Tchaikovsky, and the
CD also offers a fine account of my favorite Glazunov
piece, his richly romantic string quintet.
Fantaisie, Nocturnes, Mazurkas, Ballades Yevgeny
Sudbin (piano) rec. 2009-11 BIS BISSACD1838
Original Chopin from a very thoughtful artist. In a time
when Chopin albums seem to all come out of the same mold,
Yevgeny Sudbin's extraordinary way of looking at the music
afresh, and playing it to the absolute hilt, is both thrilling
and liberating. I listened 12 times this year without
Taras Bulba, Lachian Dances, Moravian Dances
Warsaw PO/Antoni Wit rec. 2010-11 NAXOS
My new favourite Taras Bulba, elevated by superb
orchestral playing and the most emotional (and least repetitive)
ending I've yet heard. The Lachian Dances and my favourite
cover painting of 2012 don't hurt.
String Quartet “Razumovsky” Aaron
Jay KERNIS String Quartet 2 Jasper
String Quartet rec. 2011 SONO LUMINUS DSL-92142
The Jasper Quartet formed over a mutual love of Beethoven's
quartet Op 59 No 3, and you can tell in a performance
that seems boundlessly energetic, passionate, and committed.
They revel, too, in a worthwhile 1997 quartet by Aaron
Jay Kernis which is partly inspired by the Beethoven.
One of the ensembles of the future.
Symphony 20, Cello Concerto Claes Gunnarsson
(cello) Gothenburg SO/Thord Svedlund rec. 2011
If you've never heard Mieczyslaw Weinberg's cello concerto,
buy this now. Seriously. Just click through to your favorite
merchant now and buy it. Its emotional resonance and immediacy
are comparable to Shostakovich and, dare I say it, Elgar.
Having chosen all DVDs last
year, this year, for me, saw a revival of purely audio
releases, and we’re all the better off for it. With
a respectful nod to McCreesh’s Elijah and Mark Minkowski’s
set of Schubert symphonies, these are the discs that I
enjoyed the most this year.
Adriana Lecouvreur Angela Gheorghiu
(soprano) Jonas Kaufmann (tenor) Ch & O Royal Opera
House, Covent Garden/Sir Mark Elder rec. 2010
Easily my DVD of the year, this is a luxury performance
of a full-sugar treat for lovers of Italian opera. Relax
Orchestral Works Royal Scottish Ntl O/Stéphane
Denève rec. 2011/12 CHANDOS CHSA5102
An outstanding memento of Stéphane Denève’s
time in Scotland, but much more than that alone: it’s
also the finest of the Debussy anniversary CDs to have
come my way.
Lieder Soile Isokoski (soprano) Marita Viitasalo
(piano) rec. 2011 ONDINE ODE1187-2
A wonderful soprano in beautiful songs, captured at her
Lieder by Beethoven, Schoenberg, Haydn & Berg Christian
Gerhaher (baritone) Gerold Huber (piano) rec. 2012
I said of the disc above that if another song recital
that good came our way this year then we would be blessed
indeed. It did, and we are. Gerhaher’s summation
of the German Lieder tradition is sensationally sung and
Violin Concerto, Sérénade Mélancolique,
Valse-Scherzo, Souvenir d’un lieu cher
James Ehnes (violin) Sydney SO/Vladimir Ashkenazy
rec. 2010 ONYX 4076
A wonderfully sympathetic account of a deservedly popular
concerto, played by one of the most purely musical of
Symphonie fantastique, Béatrice et Bénédict
Overture Scottish CO/Robin Ticciati rec. 2011
A sensationally played, brilliantly forensic uncovering
of the Symphonie Fantastique, scrubbing it down and revealing
it in an entirely new light, and captured in sound that
is every bit as outstanding.
viens animer ma voix!
Works by Dornel, Campra, Clérambault & Courbois
Hugo Oliveira (baritone) Ludovice Ensemble/Fernando
Miguel Jaloto rec. 2010 RAMÉE RAM1107
The French baroque cantata isn't fully appreciated yet.
This disc includes three fine specimens of the genre.
The interpretations by Hugo Oliveira and the Ludovice
Ensemble are pretty much ideal. The use of period pronunciation
makes it even more valuable.
Concerto delle Viole Barberini
Ensemble Mare Nostrum, Vox Luminis/Andrea De
Carlo rec. 2011 RICERCAR RIC320
This disc sheds light on a forgotten part of Italian
17th-century music: the repertoire for a consort of viols.
Mare Nostrum brings oustanding performances of first-rate
and mostly unknown repertoire. Vox Luminis delivers fine
contributions in madrigals for voices and viols.
Sacred Motets Weser-Renaissance/Manfred Cordes
rec. 2008 CPO 777352-2
Dulichius is a hardly-known German renaissance composer
on the brink of the early baroque. He has been (unjustly)
compared with Lassus, but his music is very good in its
own right. Weser-Renaissance delivers immaculate and often
exciting performances and demonstrates the various ways
in which polyphony of the renaissance can be interpreted.
La Catena d'Adone Laciana Mancini, Reinoud
Van Mechelen, Scherzi Musicali/Nicolas Achten rec. 2010
This is the first opera ever performed in Rome. Mazzocchi
was a highly respected composer in his time, and this
opera shows why. There are some very dramatic moments,
and these come off perfectly in the interpretations of
Scherzi Musicali, an ensemble of outstanding young performers,
from whom we can expect great things in the future.
Concertos and Overtures for London Crispian Steele-Perkins
(trumpet) The Harmonious Society of Tickle-fiddle Gentlemen/Robert
Rawson rec. 2010 RAMÉE RAM1109
Pepusch was one of the many composers from the continent
who settled in London. He played an important role at
the music scene; this is the first disc entirely devoted
to his oeuvre, though. It is an impressive testimony of
his compositional skills. The Harmonious Society of Tickle-fiddle
Gentlemen is an excellent ensemble which fully explores
the qualities of Pepusch's compositions.
Florid songs for cornetto around 1600 Bruce Dickey
(cornett) Claudia Pasetto, Leonardo Bartolotto, Alberto
Rasi (viola da gamba) Maria Christina Cleary (harp) Liuwe
Tamminga (organ) rec. 2011 PASSACAILLE 979
The cornett was one of the most celebrated instruments
in the 16th and early 17th centuries, in particular for
its ability to imitate the human voice. This is amply
demonstrated by Bruce Dickey, the king of modern-day cornettists.
His technical skills are impressive, and even more so
his ability to bring the repertoire for his instrument
to life. He is supported by a fine ensemble of viols and
harp and by organist Liuwe Tamminga. The 16th-century
organ and the acoustic of the basilica in Mantua greatly
contribute to the excitement of this recording.
Despite the problems
besetting the classical recording industry, this has been
an outstandingly productive year. As usual, most of my
choices have appeared in my Download digests and, again
as usual, it’s been supremely difficult to choose.
Even the budget box of Mozart symphonies from Jaap ter
Linden (Brilliant Classics) didn’t make the final
The Starlight Express Elin Manahan Thomas
(soprano) Roderick Williams (baritone) Simon Callow (narrator)
Scottish CO/Sir Andrew Davis rec. 2012 CHANDOS
I would have chosen Havergal Brian’s Gothic Symphony
(Hyperion) but it was included last year. So I choose
the sheer enterprise of recording Elgar’s complete
Starlight Express, despite the strong claims of other
Chandos enterprises and of Dutton in recording music new
to me by Arthur Benjamin, Sainsbury, Haydn Wood and others.
Die Walküre Stig Fogh Andersen
(tenor) Yvonne Howard (soprano) Susan Bickley (mezzo)
The Hallé/Sir Mark Elder rec. 2011 HALLÉ
Recordings of two very different operas vie for my choice.
Despite the appeal of the Virgin Classics DVD which ‘sold’
Monteverdi’s Poppea to me, it has to be the Hallé
set of Wagner’s die Walküre that takes top
Concerti Grossi The Avison Ensemble/Pavlo Beznosiuk
rec. 2011 LINN CKD411
Of several fine recordings of baroque music: Monteverdi’s
Selva Morale (volume 2, Coro), Vivaldi from Philippe Jaroussky
(Virgin) and Elin Manahan Thomas (Channel Classics), his
la Cetra (Channel Classics) and Opus 8 concertos (Linn)
my first choice are the Corelli Op.6 Concerti Grossi from
the Avison Ensemble; I should have made them Recording
of the Month.
Motets, Anthems, Fantasias and Voluntaries Academy
of Ancient Music & Choir/Richard Egarr (organ) rec.
2010 HARMONIA MUNDI HMU807551
Of my many discoveries this year, the music of Christopher
Gibbons, son of the more famous Orlando just beats Striggio’s
1612 Vespers (Decca) and several neglected 20th-century
composers whose music has been brought to us by Dutton.
Symphony 9 Berlin PO/Simon Rattle rec. 2012
EMI CLASSICS 9529692
Sir Simon Rattle has demonstrated that the reconstructed
Bruckner Ninth Symphony can sound as convincing as Mahler’s
Tenth; I place this even above the bargain download of
Bruckner’s Eighth from Gunther Wand (RCA).
Variations on an original theme 'Enigma' London
SO/Pierre Monteux BEULAH EXTRA 1BX181
Linn’s Studio Master download reissues from Universal
sound better than on CD, especially Mahler’s Eighth
Symphony (Decca) and Berlioz’ Symphonie Fantastique
(Decca, originally Philips), but Beulah’s reissues
of Sir Thomas Beecham (Goldmark), Sir Adrian Boult (Elgar),
Sir Colin Davis’s Beethoven and, above all, Pierre
Monteux’s Elgar Enigma Variations take top place.
London String Quartet: 1917-1951 Recordings
MUSIC & ARTS CD-1253
Too late for inclusion last year, this is a must for
my select 2012 list. Seldom does a set do what this one
does: restore a significant selection of historic recordings
largely ignored since their first release and also include
a tranche of live concert material that changes perceptions
of the group. That's what this set is all about. The live
1943-50 Library of Congress recitals reveal the London
String Quartet as one of the elite chamber ensembles of
its time, playing at the top of its form.
Cantatas for Holy Sepulchre Hana Blaiková
(soprano) David Erler (alto) Tobias Hunger (tenor) Tomáš
Král (bass) Collegium Marianum/Jana Semerádová
rec. 2011 SUPRAPHON SU4068-2
Supraphon's 'Music from Eighteenth Century Prague'
series is handsomely produced and intelligently compiled.
Add a Zelenka programme of less well known early works,
and cap that with superb performances, and you have a
winning combination. Hana Blaiková is an
outstanding soprano and Collegium Marianum is directed
by Jana Semerádová, one of the rising stars
in the performance of Baroque music.
Feuermann - Unexpected Discoveries rec.
1921-41 WEST HILL RADIO ARCHIVES WHRA6042
West Hill took what I called a 'stategically astute'
route in this box. The great cellist Emanuel Feuermann's
complete acoustic recordings are here - they've never
before been collected - as is a fascinating selection
of live performances. It allows one to chart the rapid
advance in taste from some gauche mannerisms in the earliest
sides to the remarkable virtuosity of his maturity. No
admirer of the cellist can do without this box set.
As usual I have
found it difficult to limit myself to six discs and were
it not for this limit, I would also have included the
Shostakovich Symphonies 6 and 12 in Vasiliy Petrenko’s
continuing series on Naxos, the disc of delightful Martinu
music for chamber ensemble with Klaus Simon and the Holst
Sinfonietta also on Naxos, Joshua Bell and Jeremy Denk’s
“French Impressions” on Sony, and the JACK
Quartet’s Wigmore Hall recital on Wigmore Hall Live.
I was indeed fortunate to have reviewed these as well
as the six below that for me were the truly outstanding
discs of the year.
- works for wind ensemble by Reicha, Martinů &
JanŠček Berlin Philharmonic Wind Quintet
rec. 2005/9 BIS BIS-CD-1802
A superb sampling of Czech wind music in exquisite performances
and wonderful sound. The Janácek and Martinu in
particular are outstanding, but the whole disc is a winner.
In tempus praesens, Glorious Percussion Vadim
Gluzman (violin) Anders Loguin, Anders Haag, Mika Takehara,
Eirik Raude, Robyn Schulkowsky (percussion) Lucerne SO/Jonathan
Nott rec. 2008/11 BIS BIS-CD-1752
A performance of Gubaidulina’s Second Violin Concerto
by Vadim Gluzman at least the equal of Mutter’s
premiere recording and one that easily demonstrates the
work’s greatness among contemporary works in the
genre. Along with this is the premiere recording of the
composer’s terrific new percussion concerto.
El sombrero de tres picos, Noches en los jardines
de España, Homenajes Raquel Lojendio
(soprano) Jean-Efflam Bavouzet (piano) BBC Philharmonic/Juanjo
Mena rec. 2011 CHANDOS CHAN10694
The perfect calling card for the BBC Philharmonic’s
new chief conductor, Juanjo Mena, this selection of three
of de Falla’s best orchestral works is a valuable
addition to the composer’s discography. The conductor
has a natural affinity for this repertoire and Chandos’s
sound and production values are up to their usual high
Cello Concerto, The Water Goblin, In Nature’s
Realm Zuill Bailey (cello) Indianapolis SO/Jun
Märkl rec. 2011 TELARC TEL3292702
A challenger to my long-held benchmark Fournier/Szell
recording of this great Cello Concerto from an unexpected
source. I have had real admiration for Bailey’s
performances, but the Indianapolis Symphony under Märkl
prove to be equal partners here. The fillers, In Nature’s
Realm and the Water Goblin, are as idiomatically played
as is the concerto.
Symphony 4 WDR SO/Rudolf Barshai rec. 1996
Available now separately, Barshai’s powerful reading
of this Shostakovich milestone has never been bettered.
With world-class playing and deep, rich sound, the performance
and recording are unmissable.
Le Grand Macabre Chris Merritt, Inés
Moraleda, Ana Puche, Gran Teatre del Liceu SO & Ch/Michael
Boder rec. 2011 ARTHAUS MUSIK 108058
A Blu-ray first for a controversial production of a
weird and wonderful opera. Some may be appalled by the
near pornography, while other viewers may find it enthralling.
In any case, the performance could hardly be bettered
and the sound and picture are stunning. The disc has a
substantial bonus by way of a lengthy documentary on the
staging and costumes.