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Recordings Of The Year 2014
As a great fan of classical ballet, I've been disappointed this year
to see an apparent slowdown by ICA and others in re-releasing vintage
performances. My 2014 dance reviews have therefore included more modern
productions than usual, with, somewhat to my surprise, some rewarding
discoveries. Perhaps I'm just becoming more tolerant of modernity as I
get older: my first choice here might well suggest so...
FRANCK Stradella - Isabelle Kabatu, Marc Laho, Ch & O
Opéra Royal de Wallonie/Paolo Arrivabeni rec. 2012 DYNAMIC DVD
This DVD of the teenaged Franck's first opera makes an unforgettable
impression. The score may be simplistic and the singing of variable
quality, but as a piece of wacky 21st century theatre, this
semi-underwater production takes some beating. Just for once, a
director's utterly weird concept works - though I still can't for the
life of me explain why.
ADAMLe Corsaire - Maria Gutierrez, Davit Galstyan,
Takafumi Watanabe, O Ntl Capitole/David Coleman rec. 2013 OPUS ARTE
Advertised as "Le Corsaire for the modern age", this production
eschews the pseudo-orientalism of more traditional rivals in favour of a
clever, relatively abstract design. The simple sets make surprisingly
effective backdrops for the Toulouse company's highly accomplished
dancing to a score that's been creatively modified from time to time.
The Blu-ray picture is fabulous.
We are no longer as short of full-length recordings of Gliere's
orchestral warhorse as we used to be, but JoAnn Falletta's new CD is very
welcome for the evident care and affection that she and her skilled
Buffalo Philharmonic players lavish on the score. Naxos's superb
engineering does both the performers and this fascinating work itself
John Knowles PAINE As you like it overture,
Shakespeare’s Tempest, Symphony 1 - Ulster O/JoAnn Falletta rec.
2012 NAXOS 8.559747
JoAnn Falletta crosses the Atlantic to join her "other" orchestra in
reviving some 19th century Americana. Conservative in idiom and
exhibiting strong suggestions of Beethoven, Liszt and Brahms, Paine's
well-crafted scores may not be outright masterpieces but certainly
deserve a hearing. The first-rate performances show them off in the best
DELIBESCoppélia - Sophie Cassegrain, Yester Mulens,
Cristian Oliveri, Ballet Victor Ullate, Comunidad de Madrid O rec. 2013
EUROARTS Blu-ray 2059724
Delibes's ever-popular ballet is brought well and truly into the 21st
century by Madrid's innovative Victor Ullate company. With the emphasis
on comedy, but backed up by seriously skilful dancing from everyone on
stage, the production stays true to the spirit of the original while
offering its own novel and highly engaging perspective.
Russian Masters DOCUMENTS 600158
Don't let its supermarket bargain-box looks deceive you, for this is a
quality product. No pseudonymous artists here, but the real thing: 10
CDs of Oistrakh, Heifetz, Menuhin, Richter, Solomon, Rubinstein,
Rostropovich, Mravinsky, Stokowski, Karajan and other top-flight names in
truly classic performances of key repertoire. At about a tenner, it's
the bargain of the year!
I regret not being able to find space in my six
for Mitsuko Uchida's most recent Mozart concerto disc from Cleveland.
RUBINSTEIN The Demon Alexander Polyakov, Nina
Lebedeva, USSR All-Union Radio Moscow SO & Ch/Boris Khaikin rec. 1974
A first issue on CD of this magnificent recording, making it now the
best available of an unjustly neglected opera.
Frideric HANDEL Keyboard Suites 1-8 - Danny Driver
(piano) rec. 2013 HYPERION CDA68041/2
A delight to hear this subtle and complex music so elegantly played
on a Steinway, triumphantly bucking the trend for its performance on a
Edward ELGAR Violin Concerto - Catherine Manoukian (violin)
Staatskapelle Weimar/Stefan Solyom rec. 2011 BERLIN CLASSICS
Edward ELGAR Cello Concerto Elliott CARTER Cello
Concerto Max BRUCH (1838-1920)Kol Nidrei Alisa Weilerstein (cello)
Staatskapelle Berlin/Daniel Barenboim rec. 2012 DECCA 4782735
Two major Elgar concerto recordings by important young artists, to
challenge established catalogue favourites.
DVOŘÁK Violin Concerto, Romance, Mazurek - Anne-Sophie Mutter
(violin) Berlin PO/Manfred Honeck rec. 2013 DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON
A welcome return of a famous partnership in a tour de force.
SCHUBERT Winterreise Jonas Kaufmann (tenor) Helmut
Deutsch (piano) rec. 2013 SONY CLASSICAL 88883 795652
The best tenor in the world today gives us a seminal interpretation
of a masterwork.
‘Tis a sign of the times that so many of my reviews this year were of downloads rather than discs. The fact that all my picks for 2014 are available in both formats is another indication of how much the music business has shifted in the past year. Among the recordings that made it to my shortlist were: Riccardo Muti and the Chicago Symphony in Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet suites (CSO Resound); Joel Hastings in piano music by Carter Pann (Naxos); Conspirare’s Sacred Spirit of Russia (Harmonia Mundi); John Pickard’s Eden and Gaia Symphony (BIS); and, to celebrate this year’s Straussfest, Sebastian Weigle’s Heldenleben and Macbeth (Oehms). Notable reissues/re-masters included Walter Susskind and the LSO in Prokofiev’s Chout (Everest) and Leonard Bernstein and the New York Phil in vintage Copland (HDTT). Alas, no Mahler this time. My six of the best, in no particular order, are:
MEYERBEER Overtures and Entr'actes from the Paris Operas
- New Zealand SO/Darrell Ang rec. 2013 NAXOS 8.573195
Darrell Ang and the New Zealand Symphony’s collection of Meyerbeer overtures and entr’actes is probably the most enjoyable recording I’ve heard this year. Played with gusto and a keen sense of drama these pieces have never sounded so good. The 24/96 download is even more spectacular. A sterling effort by Naxos and an impressive calling card for this up-and-coming conductor.
Andrew Manze, who recently directed a tantalising pair of Adès pieces for BIS, has teamed up with CPO and the Helsingborg Symphony for what promises to be a distinguished cycle of orchestral works by Lars-Erik Larsson. I characterised the contents of this first volume as ‘music of substance and stature’, made all the more desirable by fine playing and an exemplary recording.
SOR Grande Sonates - Ricardo Gallén (guitar) rec. 2013
This is my wild card; I just couldn’t resist Ricardo Gallén’s elegant traversal of these Sor guitar sonatas. Unlike my other choices this wasn’t a Recording of the Month, although subsequent auditions have convinced me it should have been. It’s lovely music, superbly played and recorded. A must hear, even if this isn’t your usual fare.
ORFFCarmina Burana - Anima Eterna Brugge/Jos van
Immerseel rec. 2013
ZIG-ZAG TERRITOIRES ZZT353
In 2012 Robin Ticciati and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra’s reappraisal of Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique had me ransacking the cupboard for unused superlatives. Ditto this refreshing, highly musical performance of Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana from Jos van Immerseel and Anima Eterna. Refined, insightful and beautifully scaled this couldn’t be further from the loud, boisterous versions we’ve come to love or loathe. In short, it’s a revelation.
ULLMANN The Complete Works for Piano Solo - Christophe Sirodeau
(piano) rec. 2010-12 BIS BIS2116 SACD
‘Deeply penetrating performances; a new benchmark has been set.’ That was my verdict after hearing this profoundly moving set of piano sonatas by Viktor Ullmann. It’s not the easiest music to listen to, but in Christophe Sirodeau’s capable hands the composer’s technical prowess and expressive range are revealed as never before. Indeed, I doubt you’ll hear these works played better. This is the kind of rep that BIS have made their own.
If I had to choose a single Recording of the Year it would have to be this one. Per Nørgård’s hallucinatory opera Der gottliche Tivoli was one of my top choices in 2012, but Sakari Oramo and the Wiener Philharmoniker’s performances of Symphonies 1 and 8 are even more desirable. This is music of startling originality, conducted and played with authority and flair. Another top-notch recording from Dacapo.
MAHLER Symphony 7 - Simón Bolívar SO Venezuela/Gustavo Dudamel
rec. 2012 DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 4791700
No praise can be too high for the orchestral playing, and if there is
a better – or let’s say equally brilliant - Mahler Seventh around, I
have yet to hear it.
2014 has been another good year for the recording industry. As the year progressed I compiled a shortlist of potential Recording of the Year candidates and ended up with 12 candidates. From this shortlist, among those that didn’t quite make the final cut Sir Simon Rattle’s excellent set of the Schumann symphonies was just edged out by his account of the St John Passion, largely because the Bach was so original, if controversial, in presentation. Tasmin Little gave us one of the best recordings I’ve ever heard of The Lark Ascending but the stature of the two works by Walton on her other disc that came my way gives it precedence. The Vaughan Williams Cambridge Mass is not quite an undiscovered masterpiece but it expands our knowledge of the composer in an important way. I was impressed by Benjamin Zander’s recording of Mahler’s ‘Resurrection’ Symphony in superb sound and by Sir John Eliot Gardiner’s blazing live reading of Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis.
With one exception my six choices are listed in alphabetical order. I hope that if you acquire any of them – or any of the ‘nearly’ choices mentioned above – you will enjoy them as much as I did.
George GERSHWIN Porgy and Bess - Eric
Owens, Laquita Mitchell, San Francisco Opera Ch & O/John DeMain rec.
2009 EUROARTS Blu-ray 2059634
I don’t often review opera recordings but since Porgy & Bess is such a magnificent score I was keen to make an exception. Recorded live in 2009, this is a knock-out production and performance. There isn’t a weak link in the cast; the chorus is superb and all the principals are excellent. Dominating the whole production is the Porgy of Eric Owens. He’s a big man in every sense and his voice fits the part like a glove. John DeMain has long experience of conducting this opera and, my goodness, it shows. Francesca Zambello’s direction is surefooted and the video direction by Frank Zamacona is just as successful. I was gripped and moved by this performance and I have no hesitation in selecting it as my Recording of the Year.
Johann Sebastian BACHJohannes-Passion -
Mark Padmore, Roderick Williams, Magdalena Kožená, Christian Gerhaher,
Berlin PO/Sir Simon Rattle rec. 2014 BERLINER PHILHARMONIKER
RECORDINGS BPHR140031 Blu-ray/DVD
I approached this ‘ritualization’ by Peter Sellars of Bach’s great masterpiece rather warily but my reservations were blown away. There are some aspects of the production with which I don’t agree but the conviction and deep thought behind the enterprise as well as the superb musical performances convinced me. I found myself drawn into the narrative - and into Bach’s contemplation of the narrative through arias and chorales – in a completely new way. Among a wonderful cast Mark Padmore as the Evangelist is exceptional. His performance is gripping. Presented in excellent sound and with fine camerawork, I found this a compelling and moving experience.
Leonard BERNSTEINWest Side Story -
Cheyenne Jackson, Alexandra Silber, San Francisco Symphony Ch &
O/Michael Tilson Thomas rec. 2013 SFS MEDIA SFS0059 SACD
By pure chance San Francisco rather dominates my selections this year. From Davies Symphony Hall comes a very fine live recording of Bernstein’s great score led by Michael Tilson Thomas. He benefits from a cast of experienced music theatre performers. Cheyenne Jackson is not, perhaps, the ideal Tony but he does well. Alexandra Silber is a winning Maria and the rest of the cast is very strong. Just occasionally some of the tempi are a little bit safe but overall Tilson Thomas conducts superbly – this music must be in his very bones. His San Francisco Symphony players contribute some fabulously acute playing. With a suitably up-front and punchy recording and lavish presentation this release oozes class.
CORIGLIANO Conjurer, Vocalise - Dame Evelyn Glennie,
Hila Plitmann, Albany Symphony/David Alan Miller rec. 2011 NAXOS
AMERICAN CLASSICS 8.559757
John Corigliano’s amazingly inventive percussion concerto receives a first recording from Dame Evelyn Glennie, for whom it was composed. This is an extraordinary score, exploiting a vast array of percussion instruments across its three movements. Glennie plays it with staggering virtuosity and the fascinating sounds that she conjures up from her battery of instruments are enhanced by the stunning realism with which the engineers have recorded the score. The other work on the disc, Vocalise, is also intriguing and solo soprano Hila Plitmann makes a tremendous job of what is clearly a hugely demanding solo part. This is an important and stimulating release and the sound is just about the best I’ve heard from Naxos: I’d love to hear it in BD-A format.
Alfred DESENCLOS Messe de Requiem, Salve regina, Nos
autem Pierre VILLETTE O sacrum convivium, Hymne à
la Vierge, Attende Domine Francis POULENC Litanies à la
Vierge noire - Ch King’s College, London/David Trendall rec. 2013
The 1963 Requiem by the little-known French composer, Alfred Desenclos is a very beautiful work. It deserves to be better known and this wonderful recording by the Choir of King’s College, London and the late David Trendell can only help its cause. It has been recorded before but this King’s version takes the palm because the choral singing is so fine and te Delphian sound is excellent. Anyone who likes the Requiems of Fauré and Duruflé should respond positively to this score; it’s recognisably cut from the same cloth, though Desenclos is his own man. Sadly, David Trendell died suddenly and prematurely in October 2014. That’s not the reason for selecting this disc; it’s here on its own merits but it’s a fitting memorial to a fine choral conductor.
William WALTON Symphony 1, Violin Concerto - Tasmin Little, BBC
SO/Edward Gardner rec. 2013/14 CHANDOS CHSA5136 SACD
One of the handful of truly great British symphonies is given a splendid new recording by Edward Gardner and the BBC Symphony Orchestra. Their reading, in top quality Chandos sound, offers the strongest challenge in my experience to the hegemony of the classic Previn recording. Tasmin Little is superb in the Violin Concerto and her performance compares well at every turn with the great Heifetz recording. In fact I think hers is a more rounded and nuanced view of the work and her technical command is complete. The support she gets from Gardner and the BBC SO is just marvellous. This Chandos disc is a compelling coupling of exceptionally fine Walton performances.
Honorable mentions: the Ellipsos Saxophone Quartet's precise, superfun
transcription of Ravel's Le Tombeau de Couperin (Genuin); the complete
solo guitar music of Toru Takemitsu (Naxos); Martinu's cello sonatas
with a new sonata by Olli Mustonen (BIS); and the best-ever new West
Side Story recording by the San Francisco Symphony and Michael Tilson
Thomas. Also, 2014 saw the first two performances of a major Ravel piano
piece: the solo piano suite from "Daphnis". How this has gone a century
without being recorded is a mystery, but now you can choose between
Vincent Larderet and Florian Uhlig. Both are excellent.
Rest in Peace, Danish National Chamber Orchestra. The band dissolves
at the end of 2014, leaving behind a legacy of important recordings of
Danish music by the likes of Holmboe, Koppel, and Nørgård. A Beethoven
symphony cycle will be released in spring 2015, but these superb Mozart
recordings are also a fitting monument to the ensemble's unique
RESPIGHI Impressioni brasiliane, La Boutique
fantasque - Royal PO Liège/John Neschling rec. 2013 BIS
The Roman Trilogy isn't the only fun bombastic orchestral spectacular
Respighi wrote! This superbly played and even-betterly engineered album
belongs in any collection.
SCHUMANN Piano Quintet Johannes
BRAHMS Piano Quintet - Joyce Yang (piano) Alexander String Qt
rec. 2013 FOGHORN CLASSICS CD2014
I'm not often as bowled over by core repertoire recordings as I was
by this one. After handing off the album to a friend, the second opinion
came back positive too: "The Alexanders really have a great feel for
Brahms," he said, and then he borrowed all the other ASQ albums I had.
STRAUSS Don Juan, Death and Transfiguration,
Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks - Pittsburgh SO/Manfred
Honeck rec. 2012 REFERENCE RECORDINGS FR-707 SACD
As I said in my review, "When the horns cut loose in Don Juan,
halfway through and near the end, it feels like you’ve been strapped to
a rocket and blasted into the stratosphere." What can I say? I'm a
This year saw two such couplings of these
concertos, but this was by far the more successful: exciting, fresh and
BRAHMS The Symphonies and Orchestral Works - Leipzig Gewandhaus
O/Riccardo Chaillyrec. 2012/13 DECCA 478 5344
A brilliantly fresh rendering of these eternal
masterpieces. How can anyone accuse Brahms of being too academic
after hearing this?
WAGNER Götterdämmerung- Petra Lang (soprano) Lance
Ryan (tenor) Matti Salminen (bass) Berlin RSO/Marek Janowski rec. 2013
PENTATONE PTC5186409 SACD
Perhaps an overhang from last year, and slightly cheeky to include it
as this Götterdämmerung isn’t actually that special, but let it stand as
a special mention for the Wagner series of which it marks the end point,
which was in many ways very good indeed.
Although the production leaves something to be desired - the lack of
documentation in the booklet and the omission of translations of the
lyrics - this disc is a model of sensitive music making. The repertoire
ranks among the most expressive of the 17th century and the performances
Treasures of the Empfindsamkeit Works by
CPE Bach, Haydn, Mozart & Müthel - Carole Cerasi (clavichord)
rec. 2013 METRONOME METCD1091
The clavichord was quite popular in the renaissance and baroque
periods, especially in Germany, but even more so in the time of the
Empfindsamkeit. It allowed the player to influence the sound
through the way he touched the keys and that offered the possibility to
express very personal emotions. Carole Cerasi plays some of the finest
music from this period which demonstrates the unique qualities of the
PACHELBEL Complete Organ Works Volume I - Michael Belotti,
James David Christie, Jürgen Essl, Christian Schmitt (organ) rec.
2009-12 CPO 7775562
The start of a major project: the recording of the complete keyboard
oeuvre of Johann Pachelbel, one of the main organ composers of the 17th
century. An undertaking like this cannot be appreciated enough.
Pachelbel was a brilliant composer who had a strong influence on Bach.
The four organists play historical organs suitable for the repertoire.
There are many gems to discover here.
Grand Théâtre de l'amour Works by Charpentier & Rameau - Sabine
Devieilhe (soprano) Les Ambassadeurs/Alexis Kossenko rec. 2013 ERATO
Rameau died 250 years ago. He was one of the greatest opera composers
of the 18th century and played a key role in the development of the
genre. Today some of his operas are regularly performed, but for those
who are not familiar with his theatrical music this disc offers an
exceptionally good introduction. Sabine Devieilhe and Les Ambassadeurs
submit splendid performances.
Philipp TELEMANN Double Concertos for Winds and Strings -
Rebel/Jörg-Michael Schwarz rec. 2013 BRIDGE 9421
Telemann was one of the most productive and versatile composers of
his time. Until the end of his life his creative powers never left him.
He even stands out in a genre he considered not his favourite: the
concerto for one or various instruments. This disc is one of the best of
recent years, with some excellent pieces for two solo instruments and
strings. Rebel delivers exciting performances. If this disc fails to
convince the sceptical listener that these concertos are first-rate
stuff then nothing will.
Ignác Antonín TŮMA Stabat mater Johann Georg ORSCHLER Sonata for two violins
Jan Dismas ZELENKA Sub tuum praesidium, Sanctus et
Agnus Dei - Collegium Vocale 1704, Collegium 1704/Václav Luks rec.
2013 SUPRAPHON SU4160-2
Zelenka and Tuma are two composers of Bohemian birth who were pupils
of Johann Joseph Fux. With him they comprehensively studied classical
counterpoint, and this disc presents some of the results. Tuma's Stabat
mater is a masterpiece, and Zelenka's arrangements of pieces by
Palestrina are quite intriguing. The performances by these two
ensembles, directed by Václav Luks, are exquisite. This is one of the
finest disc I have heard this year.
Crown Imperial London Symphonic Concert Band/Tom Higgins rec.
2013 SOMM SOMMCD0138
Coronation music is deliberately uplifting and becomes equally
uplifting to the listener. The composers set out to impress the
establishment and so one is assured quality in composition. The
selection of pieces on this CD contain some interesting rarities like
the German, Mackenzie and Godfrey marches. The recording is in safe
hands with Tom Higgins and the ambience majestic and fresh.
FIBICH Symphony 2, At twilight, Idyll - Czech
Ntl SO/Marek Štilec rec. 2012 NAXOS 8.573157
This well-crafted music with lush melody comes from a fairly unknown
Czech composer who radiates that native warmth so much felt in Smetana's
tone poems. The performance is particularly fine and spaciously recorded
but with good focus on the sections. Conductor Štilec teases out many
nuances in the scores.
MILLÖCKER Der Bettelstudent-
Cornelia Zink, Milko Milev, Mirko Roschkowski, Mörbisch Festival O/Uwe
Theimer rec. 2013 VL KLASSIK DVD VLMD020
The impressive singing and wide staging in this atmospheric video
recording is superbly captured in this expensive production of the
popular operetta. Many thecnical difficulties have been overcome
SULLIVANOn Shore and Sea, Kenilworth- John Powell Singers, O Victorian Opera Northwest/Richard
Bonynge rec. 2013 DUTTON CDLX7310
In the right hands unknown music of Victorian British composers can
have powerful appeal and it certainly does here. Richard Bonynge weaves
his charm over the score of two forgotten Sullivan masterpieces. The
music is melodious, the pace engaging and the top-class singers and
chorus sound well in the warm acoustic.
All my choices come from material that I have reviewed in Download News but all are available on disc.
Spy's Choirbook- Petrus Alamire and the Court of
Henry VIII Alamire; English Cornett and Sackbut Ensemble/David
Skinner rec. 2014 OBSIDIAN CD712
Byrd’s Masses and Tallis’s Missa puer natus est (both Hyperion) yield to an Obsidian recording with the intriguing title The Spy’s Notebook.
Spying for Henry VIII on a rival claimant to the throne didn’t prevent
Pierre de la Rue from gathering a first-class collection of early
Renaissance music, excellently presented by Alamire and David Skinner.
CORELLI Concerti Grossi op 6 - Gli Incogniti/Amandine Beyer (violin)
rec. 2012 ZIG-ZAG TERRITOIRES ZZT349
Of many splendid reissues I select a Zig-Zag Territoires budget set of
music by Corelli and Vivaldi, half of it of very recent provenance, even above much appreciated re-releases of the music of John Tavener by The Sixteen (Coro) and The Tallis Scholars (Gimell).
STRAUSS Complete Operas rec. 1952-2000 DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON
Two bargains stand out: a 50-CD set of Baroque music (Decca) and, just beating it to the post, all Richard Strauss’s operas in mostly authoritative performances on a 33-CD set from DG (4792274 – article),
divided into two for download purposes.
Sebastian BACH Mass in b minor - Arcangelo/Jonathan Cohen rec. 2013
2013 ended with a splendid Bach Christmas Oratorio (Hyperion) but the
recent Mass in b minor just edges it out, if only because it’s performed by a very promising and versatile young group, Arcangelo, who have also recorded Monteverdi for Hyperion.
van BEETHOVEN Piano Concertos 3 & 4 - Maria João Pires (piano)
Swedish RSO/Daniel Harding rec. 2013 ONYX 4125
Among Beethoven recordings Piano Concertos Nos. 3 and 4 from Pires and
Harding just beat the Piano Trios Nos. 6 and 7 (Harmonia Mundi). I’m not alone in the hope that this will be the start of a complete series.
Fire that breaks from TheeRobin MILFORD Violin Concerto
Charles Villiers STANFORD Violin Concerto 2 Gustav HOLST Walt Whitman overture - Rupert Marshall-Luck (violin) BBC Concert
Orchestra/Owain Arwel Hughes rec. 2014 EM RECORDS EMRCD023
Last choice goes to The fire that breaks from thee primarily for bringing to light a wonderful violin concerto by Robin Milford which should never have been hidden.
Once again, my ROTY seldom emerges, blinking, into the light of the modern age. Instead I am ensconced in a sanctum lined with 78s and the occasional cylinder. Why haven’t I cited Warner’s VW-Boult box? What’s not to like about Jitka Hosprová’s Hindemith viola album for Supraphon? Couldn’t I at least find space for some spanking new symphony? Actually, I’d like to but I don’t have space. Maybe next year.
Violinists René Benedetti, Miguel Candéla, Renée Chemet,
Jeanne Gautier, Jacques Thibaud rec. 1937-55 MELOCLASSIC MC2016
Melo Classic is my label of the year. Their reissue programme has proved consistently exciting, and they have presented an astonishing array of live broadcast material from the 1930s onwards. This particular one is a gem. It does include French violinist René Benedetti’s commercial Paganini set – uniquely so for this label – but it’s brilliantly played, and rare. So is semi-legendary Renée Chemet, returning from the dead, as it were.
Fischer – The Complete London Studio Recordings rec. 1955-66
WARNER CLASSICS 2564 634123
The centenary of Annie Fischer’s birth has been properly marked by some excellent releases. Hungaroton, for instance, has issued a winning section but for more general listening this astutely selected consolidation of core repertoire shows today’s listeners just how sanely expressive and scrupulous an artist she was. Good transfers too.
Ciampi (piano) Works by Chopin, Debussy, Franck, Grieg & Liszt
rec. 1928-31 FORGOTTEN RECORDS FR797-98
Recorded between 1928 and 1931 this is all that exists of the exquisite recorded art of pianist Marcel Ciampi. Iridescent and puckish, his tonal shading is a marvel. You can also hear the Capet Quartet and violinist Yvonne Astruc. The transfers, a touch bass heavy, are truthful. Forgotten Records is a leading player in the reissue market but tends to concentrate on LPs. This is a valuable shellac detour.
De Lucia - The Complete Gramophone Company Recordings rec.
1902-22 MARSTON 540042
Touted as the Complete Gramophone Records 1902-09, there’s a huge bonus of later sides made by Fernando De Lucia for Phonotype in Milan. No lover of vocal art should be without these bel canto recordings, and many a nourishing debate can be had on the subject of his vocal production and indeed the pitching of the 78s. A characteristically painstaking and sumptuous box.
This year I decided to choose five rather than six of the recordings I reviewed not because I could not come up with six, but because I wanted to select a disc I did not review for my last choice. Of those I reviewed I could have easily included Patricia Kopatchinskaja’s stunning accounts of Prokofiev and Stravinsky violin concertos, and two additional Hindemith discs: the complete Nobilissima Visione on Naxos and works for viola with Antoine Tamestit on Naïve. Instead I chose the following for my six recordings of the year.
Paul HINDEMITH Messe, Apparebit repentina dies, Chansons, Lieder nach alten Texten -
SWR Vokalensemble Stuttgart/Marcus Creed rec. 2011/12 HÄNSSLER CLASSIC CD93.295
There were a number or recordings released to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Paul Hindemith’s death, but none more special or unusual than the disc of choral works with the SWR Vokalensemble Stuttgart under Marcus Creed on Hänssler Classics. These included the rarely heard Apparebit repentina dies with its imposing brass parts, a cappella songs, and the late Mass in wonderful performances.
PROKOFIEV Violin sonatas 1 & 2, Five Melodies - Alina
Ibragimova (violin) Steven Osborne (piano) rec. 2013 HYPERION
This recording with Alina Ibragimova and Steven Osborne may have set a new benchmark for these works. There is ample demonstration here that the performers have equal roles to play. In fact, throughout both sonatas, but especially the first, the piano frequently dominates the proceedings. All the same, the engineers have provided a just balance between the instruments. A terrific recording in all respects.
DUTILLEUX Symphony 1, Tout un monde lointain, The Shadows
of Time - Xavier Phillips (cello) Seattle Symphony/Ludovic Morlot
rec. 2012 SEATTLE SYMPHONY MEDIA SSM1001
The Seattle Symphony and their new music director, Ludovic Morlot, issued four recordings on their in-house label and this one amply shows the conductor’s affinity to the French composer’s music. The First Symphony has not received as fine a performance in recent years, while cellist Xavier Phillip’s account of Tout un monde lointain has quickly become my favorite version of this concerto.
Vibrant performances of these Polish masterpieces by Baiba Skride and the Oslo Philharmonic under Vasily Petrenko easily challenge the best recordings of the past. If this weren’t enough, Skride is accompanied by her sister, Lauma, in a winning account of the composer’s Myths.
PROKOFIEV Symphonies 1 & 2, Dreams - São Paulo
SO/Marin Alsop rec. 2013/14 NAXOS BD-A NBD0044
This was my first Blu-ray audio disc review and I was totally blown away by the realistic sound. The performances by Marin Alsop and the São Paulo Symphony are also first-rate. Indeed, I now have a much greater appreciation for Prokofiev’s gnarly Second Symphony.
SHOSTAKOVICH Symphony 14 - Gal James (soprano) Alexander
Vinogradov (bass) Royal Liverpool PO/Vasily Petrenko rec. 2013
I have admired many of the issues in Vasily Petrenko’s Shostakovich cycle, but none more than this harrowing account of the death-ridden Fourteenth Symphony—one of the composer’s greatest works. With powerfully idiomatic performances by both soloists and the Liverpool strings and percussion, this superb recording is the first to set alongside the classic one by Reshetin, Vishnevskaya, and Rostropovich.