This year seems to have seen a slowdown in releases of the
Blu-Ray/DVD/CD ballet releases in which, as a MusicWeb International
reviewer, I tend to specialise. Thankfully, however, one or two of them
turned out to be outstanding enough to warrant an accolade here. A
couple of very enjoyable CDs of less often heard orchestral works round
off my 2016 selection.
Danish Ballet School Det Kongelige Kapel/Graham Bond rec. 2014
OPUS ARTE DVD OA1195D
Long the signature work of the Royal Danish Ballet, Napoli gets a
modern makeover here, with the action updated to the 1950s and a
newly-commissioned second Act. Superbly performed, it's irresistible
foot-tapping fun. It has been brilliantly filmed too, especially in the
very busy finale that brings the house down. Undoubtedly the best ballet
release of the year.
This orchestra and conductor regularly support The Australian Ballet
in live performances of Adam's familiar score, so their account is very
much a danceable one. Fascinating bonus tracks even offer alternative
interpretations that might be deployed to suit individual artists'
styles, while top class sound makes this an even more attractive
RIMSKY-KORSAKOV Symphonies 1 & 3 - Berlin RSO/Gerard Schwarz
rec. 2015 NAXOS 8.573581
Two of Rimsky's symphonies, both long overshadowed by the ever
popular Scheherazade, Capriccio Espagnol and the Russian Easter Festival
Overture, receive expert performances here. Enhanced by fine Naxos
recording, Schwarz's way with the third symphony, in particular, offers
striking and thought-provoking contrasts to the versions that many of us
have lived with for years.
LANNER Viennese Dances - O de Cannes/Wolfgang Dörner rec. 2015
A self-indulgent choice, perhaps. Lanner certainly wasn't aiming to
write music for posterity. Rather, as a jobbing composer, he turned out
a constant flow of waltzes, polkas and other dances. While many were
slight and ephemeral, they nonetheless proved very popular in Vienna's
ballrooms. The accomplished orchestra and conductor, new to the Naxos
label, do the composer proud.
Reine Morte O Ntl du Capitole/Koen Kessels rec. 2015
OPUS ARTE DVD OA1201D
Set skilfully to various Tchaikovsky extracts, Kader Belarbi's ballet
recreates a tragic and even bizarre episode of 14th century Portuguese
history. Strikingly set and accessibly choreographed, the ballet offers
a succession of striking visual images. The Toulouse company's
performance, expertly captured in this recording, could hardly be
Classics Mariinsky Theatre O/Viktor Fedotov rec. 1991 ARTHAUS MUSIK 101799 Blu-ray
These genuinely "classic" performances have been issued several times
before, but I include them here because, remastered in Blu-ray format for
the first time, they look better than ever. The veteran Viktor Fedotov's
idiomatic conducting ensures the musical integrity of every piece while
the Kirov company is captured at its peak in something of a golden age. /p>
It has been a strong year for Mahler recordings in general and I am
sure our late, lamented expert Mahler contributor Tony Duggan would have
heartily welcomed some of the them. My two favourites are both
"performance versions" of the 10th, which is surely coming into its own
as a central repertoire work. We are also seeing a more balanced and
tolerant attitude emerge to what "period" really means, hence my
advocacy of Gerd Schaller's Beethoven with reduced forces which in no
way emasculate or miniaturise the music.
van BEETHOVEN Symphonies 3, 4 & 7 - Philharmonie Festiva/Gerd
Schaller rec. 2013/14 PROFIL PH15030
Gerd Schaller's Beethoven is a revelation in that he manages to marry
a very modern "period" sensibility with a deep respect for past
performance traditions. Maestro Schaller is surely one of the most
interesting and innovative conductors before the public today and I
heartily endorse his work in Buckner and a host of fascinating
recordings for the Profil label.
MAHLER Symphony No.10 (Cooke edn) Seattle Symphony/Thomas
Dausgaard rec. 2015 SEATTLE SYMPHONY MEDIA SSM1011
MAHLER Symphony No.10 (Gamzou edn) International Mahler O/Yoel
Gamzou rec. 2011 WERGO WER5122-2
Two completions of Mahler's Tenth Symphony command the attention of
any committed Mahlerian. Their outcomes are very different but I find
them equally valid and satisfying, doing honour to Mahler's last
thoughts before his premature demise.
WAGNERTristan und Isolde - Ramon Vinay (tenor),
Birgit Nilsson (soprano), Steersman Metropolitan Opera Ch & O/Karl Böhm
rec. 1960 PRISTINE AUDIO PACO135
Andrew Rose continues to revitalise vintage recordings with the
application of his quasi-miraculous Ambient Stereo and XR remastering
engineering techniques and this live "Tristan" is a gift to the many
adherent of this masterwork, starring two of the greatest of all
exponents of the eponymous leading roles.
Not a prolific year, but even so it’s been tough choosing just
six recordings from those did come my way. On the cutting room floor
were: Xiayin Wang’s Tchaikovsky and Khachaturian concertos (Chandos);
Poulenc piano solos and duos from Lucille Chung and Alessio Bax
(Signum); Janáček’s Glagolitic Mass, Adagio for Orchestra, Ave Maria and
Our Father from Ed Gardner (Chandos); Shostakovich 5, 8 and 9 from
Andris Nelsons and the Boston Symphony (Deutsche Grammophon); Steven
Osborne’s Crumb and Feldman (Hyperion); Cançons i danses catalanes, a
guitar recital by Franz Halász (BIS); two Ives recordings from Seattle
on their house label and the Leonard Slatkin/Detroit
coupling of Copland’s Hear Ye! Hear Ye! and Appalachian Spring (Naxos).
Now for my six picks, in review order.
SAINT-SAËNS Piano Concertos 2 & 5 - Louis Schwizgebel (piano)
BBC SO/Fabien Gabel, Martyn Brabbins rec. 2014/15 APARTÉ AP112
My reviewing year got off to a cracking start with Aperté’s coupling of
two Saint Saëns piano concertos, played by the Swiss-Chinese pianist
Louis Schwizgebel. Ably supported by the BBC Symphony Orchestra under
Fabien Gabel and Martyn Brabbins he charms and dazzles
at every turn. My original sign-off says it all: ‘I don’t expect to hear
better account of these concertos any time soon; yes, Louis Schwizgebel
really is that good.’
Gustav MAHLER Symphony No. 1 - Bavarian RSO/Yannick
Nézet-Séguin rec. 2014 BR KLASSIK 900143
It’s been a while since Mahler figured in my pick of the year’s best, so
I’m delighted the drought has been broken with an exceptional account of
the First Symphony with Yannick Nézet-Séguin and the Bavarian Radio
Symphony Orchestra. Naturally paced and nicely shaped this is a
refreshing, largely unmannered take on a work that seldom gets the
performance it deserves. Up there with Walter, the later Kubelik, Levine
and the live Tennstedt. The Bavarian Radio engineers also deserve the
Aeolian Organ at Duke University Chapel Christopher
Jacobson (organ) rec. 2015 PENTATONE PTC5186577 SACD
My annual parade wouldn’t be complete without at least one organ
release. Saved from destruction some years ago this is a fabulous
instrument, whose lovely, refined character shines forth in this
well-chosen programme. The warm, spacious Soundmirror recording is
sensational, making this an ‘absolute must for organ fans’.
SHOSTAKOVICH Symphony No. 5 - Berlin SO/Kurt Sanderling rec.
1982 BERLIN CLASSICS 0300750BC
A few years ago an irate reader took me to task for including a reissue
amongst my final six. I make no apologies for choosing a newly
remastered version of Kurt Sanderling’s Shostakovich 5, recorded with
the Berlin Symphony Orchestra in 1982. Like Nézet-Séguin’s Munich Mahler
this performance is free of all bloat and cliché, expressive underlining
or faux hysteria. The result is a deeply personal, very human account of
this much-loved work. Excellent sound, too.
TYBERG Masses - Christopher Jacobson (organ), South Dakota
Chorale/Brian A. Schmidt rec. 2016 PENTATONE PTC5186584 SACD
My reviewing year peaked with yet another Pentatone release, the
premiere recording of two Masses by Marcel Tyberg. It’s difficult not to
be swayed by the composer’s tragic story – he died in a Nazi death camp
– but I’m sure that even the innocent listener would be moved by these
direct yet heartfelt pieces. Organist Christopher Jacobson and the
South Dakota Chorale, led by Brian A. Schmidt, deliver performances of
thrilling heft and beauty. The DSD64 download is simply epic.
Again Lara Downes (piano) rec. 2016 SSONO LUMINUS DSL-92207
Last, but by no means least, is America Again, a collection that
features the extremely talented pianist Lara Downes (Sono Luminus).
Beautifully played and superbly recorded the programme celebrates
everything that’s good about America; this seems especially important at
such a tumultuous time. I listened to both the 24/192 and DSD128
downloads, and while the first sounds excellent the second is
significantly better; indeed, I’d say it sets new standards for piano
2016 has brought a rich crop of releases and, as
ever, the problem with our Recordings of the Year feature is deciding
which discs to leave out. Among those which only narrowly missed the
final cut was Hannu Lintu’s collection of orchestral music by Erkki
Melartin (Ondine), which was my discovery of the year. Among
distinguished choral issues that came my way was the Nonsuch Singers’
debut disc that included Gabriel Jackson’s remarkable To the field of
stars (Convivium). Equally noteworthy were the terrific first recording
of Sir James MacMillan’s Since it was the Day of Preparation (Delphian)
and Ex Cathedra’s excellent presentation of Alec Roth’s entertaining A
Time to Dance (Hyperion). I was seriously impressed by a disc of choral
music entitled Meditatio by an elite chamber choir from Iceland, Schola
cantorum Reykjavicensis (BIS). I greatly admired the last instalment of
Osmo Vänskä’s new Sibelius cycle, which included Symphonies 3, 6 and 7
(BIS); so much so that I promptly bought the previous two volumes in the
series. Here, in alphabetical order, are the discs that have really
stood out for me this year.
Hans ABRAHAMSENlet me tell you Barbara
Hannigan (soprano), Bavarian RSO/Andris Nelsons rec. 2015
WINTER & WINTER 910 232-2
How could I not nominate this disc? Leslie Wright’s review alerted me to
this extraordinary work and the equally extraordinary performance of
soprano Barbara Hannigan. Acquiring a copy set me up nicely to hear the
work live in August when Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla included it in her debut
concert as Music Director of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.
Miss Hannigan was also the soloist then. Abrahamsen’s score is richly
imagined and the orchestral palette, superbly rendered by Nelsons and
his players, is never less than absorbing to hear. Barbara Hannigan
sings the demanding solo part wonderfully. This is contemporary music of
distinction and both the performance and the recorded sound really do
the work justice.
Sir Lennox BERKELEY Stabat Mater and other works - The
Marian Consort, Berkeley Ensemble/David Wordsworth rec. 2016
By sheer coincidence two recordings of Berkeley’s marvellous setting of
the Stabat Mater arrived within weeks of each other. The archive
performance conducted by Norman Del Mar, issued by Lyrita from the Itter
Collection, is an important release. However, this superb Delphian disc,
the work’s first commercial recording, is the obvious library choice.
The performance is flawless and wonderfully intense and the recorded
sound presents the performance ideally. Hearing a fine performance such
as this leaves me astonished that the Stabat Mater has been so
Aaron COPLANDAn Outdoor Overture, Billy the Kid, El Salón México, Rodeo
Colorado Symphony/Andrew Litton rec. 2014 BIS BIS-2164 SACD
The attraction of Andrew Litton’s excellent Copland collection is
enhanced because he offers the complete ballet scores for both Billy the
Kid and Rodeo so we hear more music than is often the case. The
performances are superb throughout the programme, the Colorado Symphony
offering spirited and accomplished playing. Litton conducts with
vitality and evident empathy for the music while the BIS recording
presents the music in terrific sound. This highly entertaining disc
brings the Great American West vividly to life. I hope BIS will give us
more Copland from this team.
Gustav MAHLER Symphony No. 1 - Bavarian RSO/Yannick
Nézet-Séguin rec. 2014 BR KLASSIK 900143
I described this as one of the finest performances of Mahler’s First
that I’ve ever heard and that remains my opinion. Everything about this
release is outstanding. The Bavarian orchestra offers playing of
finesse, vitality and great virtuosity while Yannick Nézet-Séguin’s
conducting is perceptive and fresh. To cap it all, the BR Klassik
recording is superb, conveying the performance in very natural and
Claudio MONTEVERDIVespro della Beata Vergine
- Monteverdi Ch, English Baroque Soloists/Sir John Eliot Gardiner rec.
2014 ALPHA 705 CD/DVD
Filmed at a live performance in the magnificent surroundings of La
Chapelle Royale de Versailles in 2014, this account of Monteverdi’s
Vespers celebrated, almost to the day, the occasion when John Eliot
Gardiner, as he then was, conducted this same work in the Chapel of
King’s College, Cambridge in March 1964. That was the inaugural
appearance of his Monteverdi Choir. Today the Monteverdi Choir is one of
the world’s foremost professional vocal ensembles and this superb
performance shows us why they and Gardiner are so highly regarded. Here
Gardiner brings Monteverdi’s masterpiece thrillingly to life and the
performance has been accorded a worthy audio and visual recording. This
Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH Symphonies 5, 8 & 9, Hamlet
- Boston SO/Andris Nelsons DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 479 5201
This is the second instalment of what has now, thankfully, become a
projected complete cycle of the Shostakovich symphonies. The set, taken
from live performances, includes excellent accounts of the Fifth and the
Ninth symphonies. What sets the seal on this distinguished release is a
magnificent performance of the epic Eighth Symphony. Nelsons is a very
fine and perceptive interpreter of Shostakovich and the Boston Symphony
really delivers the goods for him.
My first year of contributing to MusicWeb International has seen me
review an extraordinarily wide range of discs and while I would have
loved to include the fabulous second volume of the BBC Philharmonic,
John Wilson and Chandos survey of Copland’s Orchestral Works and
include in my selection the magnificent box set of English Symphonies
from Lyrita, I am still left with an astonishing variety of wonderful
recordings to look back on.
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART Piano Concertos 17 & 18,
Divertimento - Jean-Efflam Bavouzet (piano) Manchester Camerata/Gábor
Takács-Nagy rec. 2016 CHANDOS CHAN10929
First of these is the gloriously life-affirming and spirited recording
of Mozart Piano Concertos from Jean-Efflam Bavouzet and the Manchester
Camerata under the wonderfully genial direction of Gábor Takács-Nagy.
The astonishing cadenzas Bavouzet adds to the G major Concerto gave me
the biggest musical smile of the year.
Turning to a group making their debut on CD this year, I was
enormously impressed with the instrumentalists of the Tulipa Consort and
the soprano Johanna Zomer. Of course, the secret here is that Zomer
hand-picked the players to ensure a common approach to interpretative
issues. This clearly worked, for there is a tangible empathy between
them all in these Vivaldi pieces.
Passion Works by Bach, Goldberg, Handel, Hasse & Telemann
- Elisabeth Schwanda (recorder), Bernward Lohr (harpsichord) rec. 2015
Staying with Baroque music, one of the really interesting discs to
emerge this year came from the recorder/harpsichord duo of Elisabeth
Schwanda and Bernward Lohr. It was fascinating to hear on this disc an
original work by the man whose name has become immortalised through his
highly doubtful association with Bach’s “Goldberg” Variations.
The most spectacular display of virtuosity I encountered on disc this
year came in a programme of encores ranging from Tchaikovsky and Dvořák
to Stravinsky and Britten. My review at the time suggested I did not
know whether to laugh or cry at the brilliance of Leonidas Kavakos’s
playing; now I just sit back in open-mouthed admiration.
STANLEY Organ Concertos - Gerald Gifford (organ) Northern
Sinfonia O rec. 1983 CRD 3365
I was delighted to revisit the only recording of the complete John
Stanley organ concertos. Handel was deeply in awe of Stanley’s skill,
and I am deeply in awe of Gerald Gifford’s stylish playing as well as
the responsive support from the Northern Sinfonia. This is a recording
which still sounds as vivid and fresh as it did when it was first
released in 1983.
Villiers STANFORD Piano Concerto No. 2, Dante Rhapsodies &
other piano works - Benjamin Frith (piano) BBC Ntl O Wales/Andrew
Gourlay rec. 2012 CHAMPS HILL RECORDS CHRCD042
Another keyboard concerto from a composer whose name begins with S
and who lived and worked in England has the distinction of being the
headline work first disc I reviewed for MusicWeb International. I am a
huge fan of Stanford’s music, and this excellent reading of his rarely
heard second Piano concerto from Benjamin Frith and the BBC NOW serves
his case very well indeed.
WAGNERParsifal – Andreas Schager, Anja Kampe, René
Pape, Staatskapelle Berlin/Daniel Barenboim rec. 2015 BEL AIR
CLASSIQUES Blu-ray BAC428
This is the release that has most impressed me this year, and has
provoked more thought in me than any other. It’s enormously
stimulating visually, and the aural side is marvellous, too. A
Parsifal for our troubled times.
BERGWozzeck – Christian Gerhaher, Gun-Brit Barkmin,
Philharmonia Zurich/Fabio Luisi rec. 2015 ACCENTUS MUSIC
This Wozzeck is almost as good, with an intriguing production that
really works and perhaps the most rounded performance of the title role
you’ll come across.
GIORDANOAndrea Chénier – Jonas Kaufmann, Eva-Maria
Westbroek, Ch & O Royal Opera House/Sir Antonio Pappano rec. 2015
WARNER CLASSICS Blu-ray 9029593779
This production was one of the most thrilling nights in the opera
house I’ve had in years. Watching it on the small screen still brings
me goose-bumps, and not only because it brings back those memories.
TCHAIKOVSKY Symphonies 1, 2 & 5 - Royal Liverpool PO/Vasily
Petrenko rec. 2014/15 ONYX 4150
This first half of a cycle got me really excited. I can’t wait for
RAMEAUHippolyte et Aricie suite Hector
BERLIOZ Symphonie Fantastique [54:58] Swedish RSO/Daniel
Harding rec. 2015 HARMONIA MUNDI HMC902244
This unusual coupling won me over due to the intelligence of the
playing and the programming.
1013-1502 Hespčrion XXI, La Capella Reial de
Catalunya/Jordi Savall rec. 2013 ALIA VOX SACD AVSA9915
A stimulating, thought-provoking package from one of our greatest
cultural polymaths; as praiseworthy for its historical as for its
Johan van Veen
ÖSTERREICH Psalms and Cantatas - Weser-Renaissance
Bremen/Manfred Cordes rec. 2014 CPO 777944-2
This disc gives a good idea of Georg Österreich's oeuvre. I am very
impressed by its quality and the performers fully explore the features
of every single piece. Cordes has brought together a fine quintet of
singers who not only make a perfect ensemble but also deliver fine
CASTELLOSonate Concertate 1629 - Musica Fiata/Roland
Wilson rec. 2013 CPO 555011-2
Castello's music is pretty well known and over the years I have heard
many of these sonatas in good performances. However, one won't often
hear such outstanding interpretations as we get here. This music is
very exciting and so is the playing of Musica Fiata.
Works by Guillemain & Quentin - Nevermind rec. 2015 ALPHA
This is the first disc of Nevermind, an ensemble of four brillant young
French players. They deserve much praise for presenting themselves to
the public with relatively unknown repertoire. Their playing is simply
superb. The music is of fine quality and the performers keep you on
- Between Greek East & Latin West - Cappella
Romana/Alexander Lingas rec. 2015 CAPPELLA ROMANA CR416-CD
Cappella Romana is an ensemble which specializes in early and contemporary
music of the Christian East and West. This explains that the programme
recorded here sounds very idiomatic. The singing is impressive and the
liturgical character of the chants selected for this disc comes off
du MONTO Mysterium - Motets & Élévations pour la
Chapelle de Louis XIV - Ensemble Correspondances/Sébastien Daucé rec.
2015 HARMONIA MUNDI HMC902241
Even if some of these pieces may be already available on disc it seems
unlikely that they receive better performances than here by the
Ensemble Correspondances. The singers have a very good feeling for the
mixture of Italian expression and French elegance and natural prosody.
It is a bit of a mystery why this music is hardly known. The sacred
madrigals deserve a complete recording. The same goes for his sacred
concertos; the pieces selected here are of excellent quality. Tobias
Michael has found the ideal advocates in the Ensemble Polyharmonique.
It can hold its own with the best in the business.
SIBELIUS Symphonies 3, 6 & 7 - Minnesota O/Osmo Vänskä rec.
2015 BIS BIS2006 SACD
The new cycle from Vanska trumps his earlier BIS recordings. In each
of these symphonies he combines technical precision with warmth and the
insights of a lifetime to delineate the special moods of each. His
beloved Minnesota Orchestra rises to every challenge, with a lack of
sentimentality revealing deeper sentiment. Indispensable!
SCHUBERTDer Wanderer & other lieder - Roderick
Williams (baritone); Iain Burnside (piano) rec. 2015 DELPHIAN
Roderick Williams demonstrates yet again his innate musical
intelligence and extraordinary sensitivity to word-painting in these
performances of some of Schubert's finest songs. These need sheer beauty
of tone allied to sensitivity, and that they achieve from one of the
great contemporary baritones.
A truly complete collection, including works overlooked in other
'complete' recordings, this lacks nothing in insight or care, revealing
the range and genius of Schubert in this medium, beyond the most famous
works. A triumph, and a bargain at this price.
It doesn’t get any easier to choose just six recordings reviewed in the
last year – so much for the death of recorded classical music. I’ve had
to leave out such important reissues as the BIS complete Bach Sacred
Cantatas, released as a series of download ‘box’ sets by eclassical.com
during the latter part of 2016. Two recordings stand out as having been
choices for the now defunct Download News that I also reviewed in more
Antonio VIVALDI Complete Concertos and Sonatas - L'Arte
dell'Arco/Federico Guglielmo (violin) rec. 2010-14 BRILLIANT
Revelatory performances from L’Arte dell’Arco directed by Antonio
Guglielmo; even the less well-known Op.7, Op.11 and Op.12 concertos
shine in these performances.
George Frideric HANDELDuetti e Terzetti italiani -
Roberta Invernizzi (soprano), Silvia Frigato (soprano), Krystian Adam
(tenor), Thomas E. Bauer (baritone) La Risonanza/Fabio Bonizzoni
(harpsichord) rec. 2014 GLOSSA GCD921517
During the past few years La Risonanza have been making superb
recordings of the music which Handel composed as a young man in Italy
with such superb singers as Roberta Invernizzi. The accolade is really for
the whole series.
de LA RUE Missa Nuncqua, Salve Regina, Missa Inviolata,
Magnificat - Brabant Ens/Stephen Rice rec. 2015 HYPERION
The most recent of the many fine recordings made for Hyperion by the
Brabant Ensemble brings the only available versions of La Rue's masses.
LEOPOLD IParadisi Gloria - Cappella Murensis, Les
Cornets Noirs/Johannes Strobl rec. 2015 AUDITE 97.540
An album, though chiefly of funeral music, that is sublime, as are the
performances by Capella Murensis.
DELIUS Dance Rhapsodies & other orchestral works - Royal
PO/Sir Thomas Beecham rec. 1956 BEULAH 3PDR4
Leaving aside renaissance and baroque music on new releases, my fifth
choice is of music by Delius, including the Florida Suite, in classic
1956 performances conducted by Sir Thomas Beecham on a Beulah reissue,
though regrettably it does mean not choosing the Beulah reissue of
Raphael Kubelík’s Bartók Concerto for Orchestra and other twentieth
& Hamilton Live in Bern Scott Hamilton (tenor sax), Jeff
Hamilton Trio rec. 2014 CAPRI RECORDS 74139-2
I know too little about jazz to write about it often but I very much
enjoyed this, my first encounter of Scott Hamilton on tenor sax and the
Jeff Hamilton Trio.
Recaptured by Pupils and Colleagues rec. 1889-1959
An absorbing treasure trove of historic Brahms performances,
including a very rare example of Brahms the pianist (and it’s not the
famous cylinder recording either), a phalanx of pianists and the only
thus-far released examples of the august Trio of New York. Thought
provoking documentation, as ever from Arbiter.
Squire (cello) Chamber Music by Brahms, Tchaikovsky & others -
Arthur Catterall (violin), Haydn Draper (clarinet), Hamilton Harty,
William Murdoch (piano), George Pattman (organ) rec. 1924-28
PRISTINE AUDIO PACM101
There’s more Brahms in this final salute from Pristine Audio to
cellist WH Squire. With elite colleagues, such as Artur Catterall and
William Murdoch on hand, the performances remain stoic and finely
conceived, and the transfers of these 1920s recordings are excellent.
Marteau (violin)Swedish pupils and colleagues rec.
1912-48 CAPRICE CAP21620
This 4-CD box traces the influence of Henri Marteau (1874-1934) on
Swedish life through his own slim recorded legacy and those of his many
and varied colleagues and pupils. If you’re at all interested in
Swedish string playing this is the historic box to have: excellent
accompanying documentation too.
String Quartet in SwedenA Cavalcade of Its History
rec. 1916-64 CAPRICE CAP21506
I’ve gone Sweden box set mad this time. Here’s a 5-CD box devoted to
the recorded history of Swedish quartets and with such full information
regarding the formation of quartets in the country, the wide-ranging
repertoire to be heard will be even more contextualised and enjoyable.
de Maurice Gendron rec. 1946-69 DECCA 4823849
Another bulging box set – this time 14CDs – restores a large chunk
of Maurice Gendron’s recordings. The 16 hours spent in his company
reveal an artist of the highest musical gifts: a responsive chamber
player, refined soloist and eloquent Bachian.
What’s gone wrong - I’ve chosen a modern recording. But here’s the
read-about but never-encountered (until now) Stín or The Shadow,
Martinů’s one act ballet of 1916. Certainly, there are naďve elements,
but what’s of far more interest is the tracing of encoded figures that
would such a part in his mature masterpieces. Listen sympathetically
and you will find much to love.
As in the past, I have been fortunate to review quite a number of
outstanding recordings and so it is difficult to limit my choices to
six. I would have liked to include the Poulenc Piano Concertos with
Lortie/Gardner on Chandos, Music for Winds with the London Winds also on
Chandos, Janáček Choral and Chamber Works conducted by Reinbert de Leeuw
on Alpha, Eötvös Concertos also on Alpha, and Haydn and Ligeti Piano
Works with Shai Wosner on Onyx. Instead, I have chosen the following
Hans ABRAHAMSENlet me tell you Barbara
Hannigan (soprano), Bavarian RSO/Andris Nelsons rec. 2015
WINTER & WINTER 910 232-2
Of all the recordings I reviewed this year, this world premiere account
of Abrahamsen’s extraordinary let me tell you must take pride of place.
Based on a novel by Paul Griffiths of the same title this song cycle
utilizes only the words of Ophelia from Shakespeare’s Hamlet to create a
mesmerizing half-hour of wondrous music. The composer collaborated with
Griffiths and the star of the performance, Barbara Hannigan, who
astonishes with the technical demands placed on her and the sheer
radiance of her singing. It is hard to imagine better accompanists than
the Bavarian Radio Orchestra under Andris Nelsons.
Karol SZYMANOWSKIKról Roger Mariusz
Kwieceń (baritone), Ch & O Royal Opera House/Sir Antonio Pappano rec.
2015 OPUS ARTE DVD OA1161D
Szymanowski’s operatic masterpiece has been lucky on disc, no more so
than this DVD of the highly praised Covent Garden production. Once one
gets used to the updated staging, the realization of the work from both
a musical and directorial aspect leaves little to be desired. All the
singing is superb as are the orchestra and Antonio Pappano in the pit.
Among the dozens of accounts of Schubert’s immortal string quintet this
one stands out for the ensemble’s ravishing sound and acute observation
of dynamics resulting in a performance that sends shivers down the
spine. The Quatuor Ebčne play as one with star cellist Capuçon integrating ideally with the others.
A recording for the ages.
LUTOSŁAWSKI Piano Concerto, Symphony No. 2 - Krystian Zimerman
(piano), Berlin PO/Sir Simon Rattle rec. 2013 DEUTSCHE
GRAMMOPHON 479 4518
Krystian Zimerman, for whom Lutosławski composed his Piano Concerto,
recorded his authoritative performance back in 1989 for the same label.
He has surpassed that effort here with Simon Rattle and the Berlin
Philharmonic in what must be a new benchmark of one of the supreme
masterpieces of the past century. Rattle and the orchestra also
contribute as convincing an account of the composer’s knotty Symphony
No. 2 as one is likely to hear.
This generously filled disc contains most, if not all, the music for
cello and piano by these composers. The highlight is Rachmaninov’s big
sonata. Weilerstein and Barnatan are artists, who are willing to take
risks and tackle the work’s surging melodies head-on and yet show due
restraint in the quieter passages. They do equal justice to the other
works on the programme, making an especially strong case for Chopin’s
DUTILLEUX Sur le męme accord, Les citations, Mystčre de
l’instant - Augustin Hadelich (violin), Mary Lynch (oboe) Seattle
Symphony/Ludovic Morlot rec. 2015-16 SEATTLE SYMPHONY MEDIA
A fine example of the exciting music-making by the Seattle Symphony and
Ludovic Morlot are the three volumes of works by Henri Dutilleux. My
choice between the second and third volumes, both of which I reviewed
this year, was difficult. I settled on the last of these because of
the ravishing account, sumptuously recorded, of Timbres, espace,
movement and the inclusion of the remarkable chamber piece Les citations
in a high-calibre performance.