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Recordings of the Month 2018

Hans ABRAHAMSEN (b. 1952) String Quartets Nos 1-4 - Arditti String Qt rec. 2015/16 WINTER & WINTER 910242-2 [68:24] [RHa] Fascinating, fragile, hibernal, beautiful. Hans Abrahamsen’s four magnificent quartets in outstanding performances. Unmissable.

John ADAMS (b.1947) The John Adams Edition - Berlin PO/John Adams, Alan Gilbert, Gustavo Dudamel, Kirill Petrenko & Sir Simon Rattle rec. 2016/17 BERLINER PHILHARMONIKER RECORDINGS BPHR170141 [4 CDs: 298:04 + 2 Blu-ray] [JQ] If you admire the music of John Adams you must hear this superb set.

Charles-Valentin ALKAN (1813-1888) Etudes Op. 35 - Mark Viner (piano) rec. 2016 PIANO CLASSICS PCL10127 [68:27] [RBe] Viner must now rank as one of the pre-eminent Alkan interpreters.

Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750) Mass in B minor - Katherine Watson (soprano) Tim Mead (countertenor) Reinoud Van Mechelen (tenor) André Morsch (bass) Les Arts Florissants/William Christie rec. 2016 HARMONIA MUNDI HAF8905293.94 [52:16 + 52:47] [ST] Explore and be surprised and delighted.

Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750) Ascension Oratorio, Cantatas 34 & 37 - Gutenberg-Kammerchor, Neumeyer Consort/Felix Koch rec. 2016 RONDEAU ROP6154 [61:11] [SG] I have nothing but praise for this wonderful production.

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827) Piano sonatas Nos 14 & 29 - Murray Perahia (piano) rec. 2016/17 DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 479 8353 [55:42] [RMo] This disc represents the summation of a lifetime’s experience.

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827) Symphony No. 1, Piano Concerto No. 1 - Martha Argerich (piano) Mito CO/Seiji Ozawa rec. 2017 DECCA CLASSICS 4832566 [60:41] [SG] Familiar repertoire given a fresh lease of life.

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827) Diabelli Variations - Martin Helmchen (piano) rec. 2017 ALPHA 386 [55:03] [ST] This new kid on the block has just carved out a very special niche for himself.

Luigi BOCCHERINI (1743-1805) Stabat mater Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791) String Quartet No. 16 Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847) Salve Regina - Dorothee Mields (soprano) Salagon Qt, Miriam Shalinsky (double bass) rec. 2016 CARUS 83.470 [72:08] [JV] Even if you already have a good performance of Boccherini's Stabat mater, this will surpass it.

Sergei BORTKIEWICZ (1877-1952) Piano Concertos No. 2 & 3 - Stefan Doniga (piano), Janáček PO/David Porcelijn rec. 2008 PIANO CLASSICS PCL10146 [58:18] [EJW] I hope that lovers of late Romantic piano concertos will rush out and buy this.

Anton BRUCKNER (1824-1896) Symphony No. 4 - Richard WAGNER (1813-1883) Lohengrin Prelude - Gewandhaus O Leipzig/Andris Nelsons rec. 2017 DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 4797577 [79:37] [RMo] One of the best accounts of this symphony ever recorded and certainly the finest of recent years.

Anton BRUCKNER (1824-1896) Symphony No. 9 - O Ntl RTF/Lovro von Matačić rec. 1963 ALTUS ALT380 [60:00] [MB] This is a quite remarkable Ninth to set beside the best.

Pavel CHESNOKOV (1877-1944) Teach Me Thy Statutes - PaTRAM Institute Male Ch/Vladimir Gorbik rec. 2017 REFERENCE RECORDINGS FR-727 SACD [67:14] [DM] Intensely beautiful singing and sound; quite simply, choral albums don’t come much better than this.

Giovanni Paolo COLONNA (1637-1695) Sacre Lamentazioni - Massimo Lombardi (chant) I Musici di Santa Pelaga/Maurizio Fornero (harpsichord, organ) rec. 2015 CPO 555 048-2 [80:02] [JV] A most interesting and musically captivating contribution to the repertoire for Passiontide.

Louis COUPERIN (c1626-1661) Dances from the Bauyn Manuscript - Pavel Kolesnikov (piano) rec. 2017 HYPERION CDA68224 [79:11] [RHa] Louis Couperin’s exquisite harpsichord music reimagined for piano. Pavel Kolesnikov’s superb disc accentuates its modernity of outlook and spirit.

Louis COUPERIN (c1626-1661) Dances from the Bauyn Manuscript - Pavel Kolesnikov (piano) rec. 2017 HYPERION CDA68224 [79:11] [SG] Music of excellence, well performed and fortified by carefully considered programming. 

Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918) Pelléas et Mélisande - Christian Gerhaher, Magdalena Kožená, Gerald Finley, Franz-Josef Selig, Bernarda Fink, Joshua Bloom, Elias Mädler, London SO & Ch/Sir Simon Rattle rec. 2016 LSO LIVE LSO0790 SACD/BD-A [165:47] [ST] Worthy to stand alongside any Pelléas of the stereo era.

Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918) Pelléas et Mélisande - Christian Gerhaher, Magdalena Kožená, Gerald Finley, Bernarda Fink, London SO & Ch/Sir Simon Rattle rec. 2016 LSO LIVE LSO0790 SACD/BD-A [165:47] [JQ] This superb set is a major addition to the discography of Debussy’s great opera.

Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918) Images, Children’s Corner, Suite Bergamasque, L’isle joyeuse - Seong-Jin Cho (piano) rec. 2017 DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 4798308 [72:49] [SG] Seong-Jin Cho is a natural Debussy player, his myriad pastel shades and artful musicianship are arresting.

Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918) The Philips Recordings - Hans Henkemans (piano) rec. 1951-57 DECCA 4829490 [4 CDs: 267:09] [SG] This would be the cycle I would favour above all the others for my desert island, yes even the Gieseking!

Caspar DIETHELM (1926-1997) Symphonies - Royal Scottish Ntl O/Rainer Held rec. 2016 GUILD GM3CD7808 [68:17] [MR] Outstanding playing, perceptive direction, superlative recording, but most of all, absolutely amazingly good music from a seriously-overlooked Swiss symphonist.

Antonín DVOŘÁK (1841-1904) String Sextet & Quintet - Jerusalem Quartet, Veronika Hagen (viola), Gary Hoffman (cello) rec. 2017 HARMONIA MUNDI HMM902320 [66:57] [RMo] A superb pairing which supplants (just) my previous favourites.

Sir Edward ELGAR (1857-1934) Falstaff, Grania & Diarmid, Songs - Roderick Williams (baritone) BBC Philharmonic/Sir Andrew Davis rec. 2017 CHANDOS CHSA5188 SACD [74.25] [DBi] A superb Falstaff coupled with some wonderfully enjoyable rarities.

Joel ENGEL (1868-1927) Chamber Music & Folksongs - Rachel Calloway (mezzo) Musicians Pittsburgh Jewish Festival rec. 2011-15 TOCCATA CLASSICS TOCC0343 [58:42] [SA] A brilliant disc of magical repertoire which you won’t find elsewhere; seek it out and you’ll be completely won over.

Manuel de FALLA (1876-1946) Fantasia Baetica and other piano works - Garrick Ohlsson (piano) rec. 2016 HYPERION CDA68177 [69:54] [DM] Distinguished pianism, a fine venue and a first-rate recording, in short, a perfect storm.

Francesco GASPARINI (1661-1727) Opera Arias - Roberta Invernizzi (soprano) Auser Musici/Carlo Ipata rec. 2016 GLOSSA GCD922905 [59:30] [JW] An unblemished success in every respect.

Percy GRAINGER (1882-1961) Complete Music for Wind Band Vol. 1 - Royal Norwegian Navy Band/Bjarte Engeset rec. 2014-2016 NAXOS 8.573679 [67:59] [RH] Bjarte Engeset conducts his remarkable Norwegian band in the first volume of what promises to be an unmissable series.

George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759) Sonatas for violin & basso continuo - Brook Street Band rec. 2018 AVIE AV2387 [80.00] [MC] Handel’s violin sonatas could hardly receive finer advocacy than these exceptional performances.

Gustav HOLST (1874-1934) The Planets Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949) Also sprach Zarathustra - New England Conservatory Ch, Boston SO/William Steinberg, rec. 1970/71 DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 4798669 CD/BD-A [75:56] [JQ] Two tremendous performances, now in superb BD-A sound which wears its four decades and more lightly.

Raul KOCZALSKI (1885-1948) Piano Concertos 1 & 2 - Joanna Ławrynowicz (piano) Podkarpacka PSO im. Artura Malawskiego in Rzeszów/Massimiliano Caldi rec. 2017 ACTE PRÉALABLE AP0501 [58:38] [EJW] A recording that has given me much pleasure – I hope to hear more of Raul Koczalski’s music.

Jean-Baptiste LULLY (1632-1688) Alceste - Judith van Wanroij, Edwin Crossley-Mercer, Ch chambre Namur, Les Talens Lyriques/Christophe Rousset rec. 2017 APARTE MUSIC AP164 [80:00 + 70:59] [SSi] A wonderful recording that eclipses the other option in both style and recording quality; buy it while you can.

Gustav MAHLER (1860-1911) Kindertotenlieder Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949) Tod und Verklärung - Brigitte Fassbaender (mezzo) Munich Phil/Sergiu Celibidache rec. 1979/83 MÜNCHNER PHILHARMONIKER MPHIL0006 [60:49] [RMo] I am captivated every time I listen to this.

Gustav MAHLER (1860-1911) Kindertotenlieder Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949) Tod und Verklärung - Brigitte Fassbaender (mezzo) Munich PO/Sergiu Celibidache rec. 1979-83 MÜNCHNER PHILHARMONIKER MPHIL0006 [60:49] [MC] Undoubtedly an early contender for one of my Records of the Year.

Frank MARTIN (1890-1974) Mass for Double Choir, Songs of Ariel Bohuslav MARTINŮ (1890-1959) Four Songs of the Virgin Mary, Romance of the Dandelions - Danish Ntl Vocal Ens/Marcus Creed rec. 2017 OUR RECORDINGS SACD 6.220671 [64:13] [LW] Exemplary accounts of Martin and Martinů a cappella works.

Bohuslav MARTINŮ (1890-1959) Bouquet of Flowers Jan NOVÁK (1921-1984) Philharmonic Dances - Prague RSO & Philharmonic Ch/Tomáš Netopil rec. 2016/17 SUPRAPHON SU4220-2 [65:36] [MW] An outstanding release, indispensable for lovers of Martinů, and a fine introduction to Jan Novák.

Bohuslav MARTINŮ (1890-1959) Complete Symphonies - ORF Vienna RSO/Cornelius Meister rec. 2011-17 CAPRICCIO C5320 [3 CDs: 182.04] [MC] I can’t praise this set highly enough.

Olivier MESSIAEN (1908-1992) Vingt Regards sur l’Enfant Jésus - Jean-Rodolphe Kars (piano) rec. 1976 PIANO CLASSICS PCL10134 [57:14 + 69:54] [SB] Everyone who cares for this work or who wishes to explore it should hear this.

Olivier MESSIAEN (1908-1992) Catalogue d’oiseaux - Pierre-Laurent Aimard (piano) rec. 2017 PENTATONE PTC5186670 SACD [3 SACDs: 152:51] [DC] Intoxicating.

Astor PIAZZOLLA (1921-1992) María de Buenos Aires - Valentina Montoya Martinez (soprano), Nicholas Mulroy (tenor), Victor Villena (bandoneon) Mr McFall’s Chamber,  rec. 2016 DELPHIAN DCD34186 [44:27 + 43:45] [RH] A fabulous outing for Piazzolla’s ambitious operita in an inspired collaboration between Scottish and South American forces.

Jean-Philippe RAMEAU (1683-1764) & Christoph Willibald von GLUCK (1714-1787) Enfers - Stéphane Degout (baritone), Pygmalion/Raphaël Pichon rec. December 2016 HARMONIA MUNDI HMM902288 [78:17] [BW] A must for newcomers to the wonderful world of baroque opera, who will find it an excellent starting point, but equally valuable for the already converted.

Henriette RENIÉ (1875-1956) Cello Sonata, Pièce symphonique, Piano Trio - Trio Nuori rec. 2017 LIGIA LIDI0302325 [60:03] [SG] This is one of the most enjoyable and satisfying chamber music discs I’ve heard in a quite a while. 

Joseph RHEINBERGER (1839-1901) Complete Organ Sonatas - Roger Sayer (organ) rec. 2015/16 PRIORY RECORDS PRCD1165 [6 CDs: 437:55] [SSi] This is a wonderful set, one that has already given me great listening pleasure.

Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828) Piano Sonata Nos 13 & 14 Karol SZYMANOWSKI (1882-1937) Piano Sonata No. 2 - Lucas Debargue (piano) rec. 2017 SONY 88985465632 [67:47] [SG] Playing of freshness and spontaneity; Debargue certainly breaths new life into these works.

Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828) Piano Trio No. 2, Arpeggione Sonata - Antje Weithaas (violin) Marie-Elizabeth Hecker (cello) Martin Helmchen (piano) rec. 2014/17 ALPHA 284 [73:24] [MW] Extraordinary, insightful performances.

Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828) Winterreise - Bo Skovhus (baritone) Stefan Vladar (piano) rec. 2016 CAPRICCIO C5291 [66:37] [GF] No single recording can give the whole truth about it, but this gets as close as possible.

Franz SCHUBERT (1798-1828) Winterreise - Florian Boesch (baritone), Roger Vignoles (piano) rec. 2016 HYPERION CDA68197 [70:55] [ST] Altogether superb.

Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828) Lieder Vol. 4 - Ian Bostridge (tenor) Julius Drake (piano) rec. 2015 WIGMORE HALL LIVE WHLIVE0091 [69:30] [JQ] A highly distinguished Schubert recital: artistry at the highest level.

Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1928) A Soprano’s Schubertiade - Carolyn Sampson (soprano) Joseph Middleton (piano) rec. 2017 BIS BIS-2343 SACD [77.32] [MW] One of the great recitals: sheer bliss.

Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975) The Golden Age - Bolshoi Ballet & O/Pavel Klinichev rec. 2016 BELAIR CLASSIQUES BAC443 Blu-ray [103 mins] [DHu] Nobody puts a foot wrong.

Igor STRAVINSKY (1882–1971) Le Sacre du printemps Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918 Printemps Serge RACHMANINOV (1873-1943) Vesna - Rodion Pogassov (baritone) Royal Liverpool PO & Ch/Vasily Petrenko rec. 2016 ONYX 4182 [66:51] [ST] The best Rite of Spring in years.

Igor STRAVINSKY (1882-1971) The Rite of Spring, Concerto for 2 solo pianos - Marc-André Hamelin, Leif Ove Andsnes (pianos) rec. 2017 HYPERION CDA68189 [64:52] [RHa] An unmissable and possibly unprecedented match-up of true piano heavyweights; their account of the Rite of Spring defies belief.

Josef SUK (1874-1935) Asrael Iša KREJČI (1904-1968) Serenata - Südwestfunk O Baden-Baden/Karel Ančerl rec. 1967 SWR CLASSIC SWR19055CD [74:54] [JC] A major addition to the Karel Ančerl discography.

Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681-1767) Fantasias - Paolo Pandolfo (viola da gamba) rec. 2017 GLOSSA GCD920417 [56:05 + 44:53] [SSi] An excellent conclusion to the commemoration of the anniversary of the composer’s death.

Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681-1767) Seliges Erwägen des bittern Leydens und Sterbens Jesu Christi - Freiburg Baroque O/Gottfried von der Goltz rec. 2017 APARTÉ AP175 [59:15 + 53:15] [DBi] Telemann continues to amaze and to belie his current lack of status: a must-hear recording.

Antonio VANDINI (1691-1778) Cello sonatas - Bologna Baroque rec. 2016 TACTUS TC692202 [56:31] [JV] These sonatas are major additions to the repertoire.

Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741) The Four Seasons - Brecon Baroque/Rachel Podger (violin) rec. 2017 CHANNEL CLASSICS CCSSA40318 SACD [75:24] [BW] Strongly recommended, though it’s disappointing that Podger and her team have not recorded the complete Op.8.

Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872-1958) Sinfonia Antartica, Four Last Songs, Concerto for two pianos - Roderick Williams (baritone) Hélène Mercier, Louis Lortie (pianos) Bergen PO/Sir Andrew Davis rec. 2017 CHANDOS CHSA5186 SACD [77:47] [MG] Davis sets a new benchmark for the recordings of all three works.

Johann Gottfried WALTHER (1684-1748) Complete Organ Music - Simone Stella (organ) rec. 2013 BRILLIANT CLASSICS 94730 [12 CDs: 658:35] [JV] This is a splendid musical monument for one of the most important composers for the organ of the 18th century.

Eugène YSAŸE (1858-1931) Sonatas for Solo Violin - Stefan Tarara (violin) rec. 2017 ARS PRODUKTION ARS38241 SACD [75:00] [NB] An early disc of the year contender.

Alma Española Isabel Leonard (mezzo) Sharon Isbin (guitar) rec. 2016 BRIDGE 9491 [66:24] [GPu] An outstanding disc, of compelling beauty and passion; Leonard and Isbin cast revealing new light on pretty well every piece.

Pierre d’Assy (bass) Airs & melodies rec. 1908/9 MUSIQUE EN WALLONIE MEW1683 [71:35 + 66:53] [JW] I can’t imagine this being done any better.

Das ewige Rätsel Johannes Martin Kränzle (baritone), Hilko Dumno (piano) rec. 2017 OEHMS CLASSICS OC1887 [69:04] [GF] An utterly satisfying recital, which includes my find of the year.

Exiled Works by Philips, Dering, Dowland, Morley & Holborne - Rose Consort of Viols, Ch of King’s College, Aberdeen/David J. Smith (harpsichord) VOX REGIS VXR0004 [66:32] [JV] This disc deserves the attention of all lovers of English renaissance music.

Fanfares Onyx Brass/John Wilson rec. 2017 CHANDOS CHSA5221 SACD [59:03] [NB] A superb disc, a collection distinguished by the brilliance of the music it contains and the exceptional manner in which it is played.

Gabrieli for Brass: Venetian Extravaganza Royal Academy of Music & Juilliard School Brass/Reinhold Friedrich rec. 2017 LINN RECORDS CKD581 [76:00] [RHa] Magnificent engineering and stylish, invigorating performances set a high bar for this repertoire.

The Gluepot Connection Londinium Chamber Ch/Andrew Griffiths rec. 2017 SOMM SOMMCD0180 [75:26] [IL] This collection is heartily recommended. No doubt it will figure in my Recordings of the Year choice.

Eileen Joyce (piano) The Complete Studio Recordings rec. 1933-1958 ELOQUENCE 482 6291 [10 CDs: 762:20] [SG] This superb collection will grace any historical piano recordings collection.

Mallorca Edition Historic Organs Martin Schmeding (organ) rec. 2011 CYBELE RECORDS 001404 [6 SACDs: 458:29] [SG] For connoisseurs of historical instruments and distinguished organ playing this set is indispensable.

Organ Party Vol. 3 Kevin Bowyer (organ) rec. 2016 PRIORY RECORDS PRCD1171 [79:51] [JF] A remarkably enjoyable CD.

Pour la Duchesse du Maine Works by Bernier, Bourgeois & Mouret - Ens La Française rec. 2017 POLYMNIE POL503134 [55:01] [JV] By far the best disc with French cantatas that I have heard in recent years.

Song of the North 441 Hz Chamber Ch/Anna Wilczewska rec. 2017 DUX 1405 [50:06] [GF] If you love choral music and plan to buy just one CD this year, be sure you buy this one!

Nathalie Stutzmann (contralto) Quella fiamma: Arie antiche - Orfeo 55 rec. 2016 ERATO 9029 576529 [73:20] [NH] Conceived with great intelligence, creativity and sympathy, and performed with consummate virtuosity and dedication.




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