Awards - Gramophone Awards 2017 shortlist

by Chris O'Reilly. 31st July 2017

The six dozen recordings shortlisted for the 2017 Gramophone Awards (which celebrate their fortieth anniversary this year) has just been revealed; the top three in each category will be announced on 16th August, and the ceremony itself will take place on September 13th in London.

You can browse Gramophone's devoted digimag featuring full reviews of all 72 shortlisted titles here.

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Baroque Instrumental

The Italian Job: Baroque Instrumental Music from the Italian States

La Serenissima, Adrian Chandler

'A fresh, zinging tone alive with vitality and enjoyment, an effortless easy panache from both ensemble and soloists...underpinned by a scholarly attittude to programming and performance style which is yet worn with a light grace.'

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JS Bach: Goldberg Variations

Mahan Esfahani (harpsichord)

'Esfahani obviously revels in [the harpsichord's] capabilities...His sophisticated virtuosity, stylistic aplomb and strong personal profile give fresh and meaningful voice to this well-travelled score.'

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JS Bach: Ouvertures

Ensemble Zefiro, Alfredo Bernardini

'French-style dances lilt, sway or scamper, with a keen attention to charismatic details (the pair of Passepieds is an ideal compound of liveliness and refinement.'

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Telemann: 12 Fantasias for solo violin

Fabio Biondi (violin)

'Biondi’s classy playing ensures that they are attractive listening. Clear, sweet-toned and generously bowed, it does not over-complicate matters with fussy articulation or effect.'

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Telemann: Concertos & Cantata Ihr Völker Hört

Clare Wilkinson (mezzo soprano), Florilegium

'Solomon takes centre stage...but my ears were drawn equally to the sympathetic continuo-playing of theorbist David Miller and harpsichordist Terence Charlston.'

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Vivaldi: Concertos for 2 violins

Giuliano Carmignola (violin) & Amandine Beyer (violin), Gli incogniti

'These are performances that burst with life, and right from the unaccompanied sparring between the soloists at the beginning of the first track.'

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Baroque Vocal

JS Bach: Cantatas Nos 54, 82 & 170

Iestyn Davies (countertenor), Arcangelo, Jonathan Cohen

'The dominant virtue in this fine collaboration between the outstanding Davies and Arcangelo lies in an unsentimental perspicacity, reassuring in its intelligence and deep sensitivity.'

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JS Bach: St Matthew Passion

James Gilchrist (Evangelist), Stephan Loges (Jesus); English Baroque Soloists, Monteverdi Choir, Sir John Eliot Gardiner

'A thoughtfully moulded, expertly executed and deeply committed reading...I believe it to be one of [Gardiner's] finest achievements.'

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John Blow: Symphony Anthems

Choir of New College Oxford & St James’ Baroque

'An assured synthesis of elegant musicality, judicious ear for contrapuntal detail and informed scholarship...New College’s famous choir is in very good hands.'

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Couperin: Ariane consolée par Bacchus

Stéphane Degout (baritone), Les Talens Lyriques, Christophe Rousset

'These works have been recorded many times but rarely so well. Rousset’s vision for his ensemble... is sublime, as too are his harpsichord realisations. This is a landmark recording to treasure.'

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Monteverdi Madrigali Volume 3: Venezia

Les Arts Florissants, Paul Agnew

'In every way, a fitting end to their journey...the vivid atmosphere of Agnew’s performance is palpable and, as so often in these discs, his text-driven subtlety wins over.'

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Alessandro Scarlatti: Missa defunctorum

Odhecaton, Paolo Da Col

'Texts are declaimed crisply yet sensitively, melismatic vowels possess compassionate luminosity, and plangent contrapuntal contours illuminate Scarlatti’s harmonic chiaroscuro.'

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Chamber

Thomas Adès, Per Nørgård & Hans Abrahamsen: String Quartets

Danish String Quartet

'The Danish are remarkable, as ever – capable of intense blend, extreme dynamic variation (in which they seem glued together), perfect intonation even on harmonics, and constant vitality and flow.'

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Bacewicz: String Quartets

Silesian Quartet

'A compelling portrait of a powerfully original creative spirit...the whole group seem to understand this life-affirming music from the inside.'

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Schoenberg, Berg & Webern: Complete Works for String Quartet

Quatuor Diotima

'Quatuor Diotima couldn’t play an affected, emotionally over-ripened note if they tried.Their vision...views the backdrop of Romanticism...as a starting-shot rather than a point of reference to be dwelt over too obsessively.'

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Bruch: String Quintets & Octet

The Nash Ensemble

'The Nash ensemble have a natural feeling for the music's ebb and flow, and while they're not afraid of big gestures and the bite of horsehair and rosin, they play beautifully as an ensemble.'

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Schubert: String Quartets Nos. 12 & 15

Doric String Quartet

'Even in a work as well known as the Quartettsatz they lend character through elasticity of phrasing, which nicely counterbalances the piece’s inherent energy.'

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Schubert: Death and the Maiden & Sibelius: Voces Intimae

Ehnes Quartet

'I never would have thought of putting these two works together, but in this group’s hands it has resulted in something wonderful.'

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Choral

Stabat Mater: Sacred Choral Music by Lennox and Michael Berkeley

The Marian Consort, Berkeley Ensemble, David Wordsworth

'The Marian Consort’s background in early music pays dividends in their superb precision of pitch, impeccable rhythmic placing and beautiful diction.'

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Cherubini & Plantade: Requiems pour Louis XVI et Marie-Antoinette

Le Concert Spirituel, Hervé Niquet

'Niquet brings fresh artistry and specifically French authority honed over decades with Le Concert Spirituel to both works. For me, this is a prize-winning disc.'

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For the fallen: Elgar & Bax

Hallé Orchestra, Sir Mark Elder

'Jennifer France is in radiant voice and narrator Joshua Ellicott's refreshingly natural delivery of the English text is most empathetic...this stimulating collection deserves every success.'

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Haydn: The Seasons

Wrocław Baroque Orchestra, Wrocław Philharmonic Choir, Gabrieli Consort & Players, Paul McCreesh

'McCreesh and his massed Anglo-Polish forces have given us a Seasons that thrillingly catches both the work's bucolic exhilaration and its invocations of the sublime. And for sheer sonic splendour it's in a class of its own.'

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Mozart: 'Great' Mass in C minor and Exsultate, jubilate

Carolyn Sampson (soprano), Bach Collegium Japan Chorus & Orchestra, Masaaki Suzuki

'The choir are well drilled and the two female soloists are matched as well as any on disc...Suzuki is no speed merchant, and maintains the through line in more strenuous movements.'

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Rachmaninov: Vespers

Saint Thomas Choir of Men & Boys, John Scott

'It is a magnificent rendition, showing just how this masterpiece has been convincingly absorbed into the wider choral tradition, and I recommend it very highly indeed.'

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Concerto

John Adams & Roy Harris: Violin Concertos

Tamsin Waley-Cohen (violin), BBC Symphony Orchestra, Andrew Litton

'Her interpretation [of the Adams] is technically beyond reproach and musically imaginative. What makes this recording indispensible is the coupling...Harris’s Concerto is a major (re-)discovery.'

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The Romantic Piano Concerto 70 - Beach, Chaminade & Howell

Danny Driver (piano), BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Rebecca Miller

'If Driver offers a robust, muscular view of the Beach, he is certainly in touch with his feminine side in the highly attractive single-movement Concerto by Dorothy Howell.'

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Tchaikovsky: Violin Concerto & Lalo: Symphonie espagnole

Augustin Hadelich (violin), London Philharmonic Orchestra, Vasily Petrenko, Omer Meir Wellber

'They demonstrate wide variation in tone and character...Hadelich’s Tchaikovsky is lean...his Lalo bursts with character. There is plenty of beef here.'

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Mozart: Complete Violin Concertos

Isabelle Faust (violin) Il Giardino Armonico, Giovanni Antonini

'These wonderful performances have the air of chamber music, of close listening between soloist, band and director...[a] thought-provoking and eminently enjoyable cycle.'

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Tharaud plays Rachmaninov

Alexandre Tharaud (piano), Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, Alexander Vedernikov

'Notable for the soloist’s exemplary clarity and the orchestra’s alternately lusty and sensitive playing...On the last page, Tharaud and Vedernikov decide to share the battle honours and storm home as equal partners to thrilling effect.'

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Tchaikovsky & Sibelius: Violin Concertos

Lisa Batiashvili (violin) Staatskapelle Berlin, Daniel Barenboim

'Everything feels ‘in the moment’, a quality of improvisation like music created in the playing of it. Her musicality always comes with an element of surprise...This is concerto-playing of the very highest order.'

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Contemporary

Adès: Asyla, Tevot & Polaris

London Symphony Orchestra, Thomas Adès

'This is an excellent recording all round, with the LSO responding superbly well to the many technical and expressive challenges posed in performing Adès's orchestral music.'

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Musica Viva 22: Benjamin, Ligeti and Murail

Pierre-Laurent Aimard (piano), Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, George Benjamin

'The Bavarians’ playing is special…Aimard is as strong an advocate as always [in Le désenchantement du monde], and Murail devotees should not hesitate.'

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Friedrich Cerha: Nacht & Drei Orchesterstücke

WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln & WR Sinfonieorchester Baden-Baden und Freiburg, Emilio Pomárico & Jukka-Pekka Saraste

'The SWR Symphony Orchestra, Baden-Baden and Freiburg, is in fine form, from delicately tolling tubular bells via Bergen woodwind lyricism to immense brass chords.'

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Laurence Crane: 6 Trios, 2 Solos and 1 Quintet

Ives Ensemble

'Crane’s music does so much with so little. The gestures are frank and ambiguous, bemused and sincere, self-deprecating and alert, unadorned and unpretentious.'

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Dusapin, Mantovani and Rihm: Violin Concertos

Renaud Capuçon (violin), various orchestras, Philippe Jordan, Myung-Whun Chung

'[The Rihm] packs a remarkable series of moods into its 15 minutes…it is sumptuously played, and Rihm gives the soloist space for that, in language that is comfortably aristocratic.'

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Macmillan: Stabat Mater

The Sixteen, Britten Sinfonia, Harry Christophers

'The work's impact is immeasurably heightened by the exceptional performance it receives here…Christopher's adoration of MacMillan's Stabat Mater radiates out of every moment of this compelling performance.'

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Early Music

Music for the 100 Years' War

The Binchois Consort, Andrew Kirkman

'The Orlandos sensibly espouse the music’s rough edges (as in the Kyrie Cuthberte), courting roughness themselves in a good cause.'

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Giaches de Wert: Divine Theatre

Stile Antico

'It is a testament to Werts's emotional immediacy that this album is one of their (Stile Antico's) most engaging recording; polyphony to grab one's attention rather than to carpet a devotional daydream.'

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Dowland: Lachrimae, or Seaven Teares

Elizabeth Kenny (lute), Phantasm

'Phantasm’s performances are totally convincing and absorbing...their acuity to the music’s ever-active emotional flux leaves them unafraid to use forceful gestures of articulation and dynamics to make a point.'

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Dufay: Les Messes à Teneur

Cut Circle, Jesse Rodin

'These are all top-rate singers with pure and excellently focused voices: every one of them appears here as a soloist in one of the duet sections, and the intonation and ensemble are beyond reproach.'

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Jean Guyot: Te Deum laudamus

Cinquecento

'Guyot emerges from this disc as a marvellously fluent composer...Even by the best standards of today their ensemble, balance and intonation are beyond reproach.'

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Machaut: Messe de Nostre Dame

Graindelavoix, Bjorn Schmelzer

'A new recording of Machaut’s Mass is always an event, and this one is compelling and provocative in equal measure...so many of [the] details will surprise, startle and perhaps infuriate.'

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Instrumental

JS Bach: French Suites

Murray Perahia (piano)

'As we expect from Perahia, everything sounds natural and inevitable. Ego doesn’t come into it: rather, he acts as a conduit between composer and audience with a purity that few can emulate.'

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JS Bach: Goldberg Variations

Beatrice Rana (piano)

'Her detailing is one of the aspects that makes this performance so compelling, be it the bringing out of a new line in the repeat, subtle changes in phrasing, a touch of pedal – examples are to be found in every single variation.'

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Bartók: Mikrokosmos Book 5

Cédric Tiberghien (piano)

'Right from the first track, you encounter a very original approach...[The 14 Bagatelles] are played with a sensitive touch and much tonal imagination.'

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Chopin: Mazurkas

Pavel Kolesnikov (piano)

'An ideal realisation of these exquisite dances, the likes of which I never dreamt of hearing...these performances are the most beautiful and strikingly original I’ve heard.'

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Transcendental: Daniil Trifonov plays Franz Liszt

Daniil Trifonov (piano)

'Trifonov’s is the best kind of virtuoso playing, where one is hardly aware of the notes being played, allowing one to simply bask in the genius of Liszt’s musical narrative and the transcendant execution of an awesomely gifted pianist.'

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Mozart & Schumann: Fantaisies

Piotr Anderszewski (piano)

'As an assemblage it is convincing, companionable, persuasive, hugely intelligent, unpredictable, totally without cliché. I know I shall always want to listen to Anderszewski.'

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Opera

Berg: Wozzeck (Blu-ray)

Christian Gerhaher, Gun-Brit Barkmin, Brandon Jovanovich; Opernhaus Zurich, Fabio Luisi, Andreas Homoki (dir.)

'This is a finely honed production that follows its premise to an absurdist conclusion with slick theatricality and dispassionate zeal...All sentimentalism is banished here.'

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Berg: Wozzeck (DVD)

Christian Gerhaher, Gun-Brit Barkmin, Brandon Jovanovich; Opernhaus Zurich, Fabio Luisi, Andreas Homoki (dir.)

'This is a finely honed production that follows its premise to an absurdist conclusion with slick theatricality and dispassionate zeal...All sentimentalism is banished here.'

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Britten: The Rape of Lucretia (Blu-ray)

Christine Rice, Duncan Rock, Allan Clayton, Kate Royal; London Philharmonic Orchestra, Leo Hussain, Fiona Shaw (dir.)

'It's beautifully acted and sung. Rice wrings your heart throughout and her self-lacerating final scenes have a harrowing immediacy.'

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Britten: The Rape of Lucretia (DVD)

Christine Rice, Duncan Rock, Allan Clayton, Kate Royal; London Philharmonic Orchestra, Leo Hussain, Fiona Shaw (dir.)

'It's beautifully acted and sung. Rice wrings your heart throughout and her self-lacerating final scenes have a harrowing immediacy.'

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Goldmark: Die Königen von Saba

Katerina Hebelková, Nuttaporn Tammathi; Philharmonisches Orchester Freiburg, Fabrice Bollon

'Singing of great authority from a uniformly fine, if unfamiliar cast...It’s a heady, enthralling experience, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.'

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Méhul: Uthal

Karine Deshayes, Yann Beuron, Jean-Sébastien Bou; Les Talens Lyriques, Christophe Rousset

'Speech and song are seemlessly integrated here, maintaining both dramatic tension and consistency of characterisation throughout. It's hard to imagine a better bicentenary tribute: do listen to it.'

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Verdi: La forza del destino (Blu-ray)

Anja Harteros, Jonas Kaufmann, Ludovic Tézier, Nadia Krasteva; Bayerische Staatsoper, Asher Fisch, Martin Kušej (dir.)

'A large part of the characterisation comes from the sheer quality of Harteros’s singing, poised and perfectly shaped, with an impeccable sense of style, the voice itself slightly hazy in colour but totally focused.'

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Verdi: La forza del destino (DVD)

Anja Harteros, Jonas Kaufmann, Ludovic Tézier, Nadia Krasteva; Bayerische Staatsoper, Asher Fisch, Martin Kušej (dir.)

'A large part of the characterisation comes from the sheer quality of Harteros’s singing, poised and perfectly shaped, with an impeccable sense of style, the voice itself slightly hazy in colour but totally focused.'

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Wagner: Tristan und Isolde (Blu-ray)

Stephen Gould, Evelyn Herlitzius, Christa Mayer, Iain Paterson; Bayreuth Festival Orchestra, Christian Thielemann, Katharina Wagner (dir.)

'The concentrated acting performances are closely supported by Christian Thielemann’s approach...This is an important and compelling addition to the number of worthwhile interventionist Bayreuth productions.'

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Wagner: Tristan und Isolde (DVD)

Stephen Gould, Evelyn Herlitzius, Christa Mayer, Iain Paterson; Bayreuth Festival Orchestra, Christian Thielemann, Katharina Wagner (dir.)

'The concentrated acting performances are closely supported by Christian Thielemann’s approach...This is an important and compelling addition to the number of worthwhile interventionist Bayreuth productions.'

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Orchestral

Haydn 2032 Volume 4 - Il Distratto

Il Giardino Armonico, Giovanni Antonini

'The orchestral playing is breathtaking in its accuracy -the sort of Haydn playing you dream of…this may well become the period-instrument Haydn cycle by which all others are measured.'

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Mahler: Symphony No. 10 in F sharp major

Seattle Symphony Orchestra, Thomas Dausgaard

'You may be surprised by Thomas Dausgaard’s force and conviction as a Mahlerian. This exceptional issue from the Pacific Northwest ought to be a game-changer for all concerned.'

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Shostakovich Under Stalin's Shadow: Symphonies Nos. 5, 8 & 9

Boston Symphony Orchestra, Andris Nelsons

'Nelsons is spry and precisioned and his insistence on super-keen rhythm pays off big-time...The Fifth Symphony is quite marvellous...and should dominate the catalogue for a long time to come.'

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Sibelius: Symphonies Nos 3, 6 & 7

Minnesota Orchestra, Osmo Vänskä

'Vänskä’s Sibelius is all about clarity – of rhythm, of texture, of intention. It is zealously unfussy and entirely without exaggeration. But it can stop you in your tracks.'

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Tchaikovsky: Symphonies Nos. 3, 4 & 6

Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, Vasily Petrenko

'The RLPO play their socks off and must rank as one of the finest ‘Russian orchestras’ in the UK today...I commend Petrenko’s as the finest modern cycle of Tchaikovsky’s symphonies currently available.'

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The Tchaikovsky Project Vol. 1: Symphony No. 6

Czech Philharmonic, Semyon Bychkov

'Bychkov’s Russian roots make him mindful of Tchaikovsky’s classicism, the emotion always ‘contained’ until it can be contained no more.'

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Recital

In War & Peace: Harmony Through Music

Joyce DiDonato (mezzo), Il Pomo d'Oro, Maxim Emelyanychev

'In War & Peace finds DiDonato back on Baroque ground for the first time in a while, and it’s a joyful musical homecoming...Drama, as ever with DiDonato, is everything. Ornamentation serves narrative first, ego second.'

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Serpent & Fire

Anna Prohaska (soprano), Il Giardino Armonico, Giovanni Antonini

'The disc’s principal pleasures lie in the rarities, where we also find Prohaska at her most beguiling...and the orchestral playing has great fluency and charm throughout.'

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Where'er You Walk: Arias For Handel's Favourite Tenor

Allan Clayton (tenor), Classical Opera, The Choir of Classical Opera, Ian Page

'It’s a lovely programme...Clayton’s tenor has been getting steadily stronger and more muscular over the past few years, and there’s more evidence of that here.'

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Mozart: Arien

Anett Fritsch (soprano), Munchner Rundfunkorchester, Alessandro de Marchi

'Fritsch’s Mozart is a sheer delight. This is no bland essay of the usual suspects painted in anonymous colours but a vivid portrait gallery of characters that Fritsch has actually played on stage.'

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Purcell: Come all ye songsters

Carolyn Sampson (soprano), Elizabeth Kenny (lute), Jonathan Manson (viol) & Laurence Cummings (harpsichord)

'Any recording of Purcell songs enters a crowded market but Sampson makes a strong case for her contribution, with just a little help from some starry musical friends.'

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Sì, Sì, Sì, Sì!: Rossini Opera Arias & Duets

Marie-Nicole Lemieux (contralto), Orchestre national de Montpellier Occitanie, Enrique Mazzola

'Anybody who has seen Lemieux in Baroque opera will know how she can shine thanks to the combination of an imposing voice and a lively personality.'

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Solo Vocal

All Who Wander: Dvorak, Mahler, Sibelius

Jamie Barton (mezzo), Brian Zeger (piano)

'The voice is rich, generous and vibrant, big but beautifully controlled, impeccably smooth throughout its range. It’s the sort of instrument you could listen to all day.'

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Heimat

Benjamin Appl (baritone), James Baillieu (piano)

'The interpretations are suffused with a gentle intelligence, an instinct for unforced but direct communication and what feels like a real love for the repertoire.'

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Brahms: Vier ernste Gesänge

Matthias Goerne (baritone) & Christoph Eschenbach (piano)

'It’s music that’s very well suited to his voice: grainy and gentle and with that characteristic burnished-mahogany tone...this is supremely seductive Lieder singing.'

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Krenek: Reisebuch aus den österreichischen Alpen

Florian Boesch (baritone), Roger Vignoles (piano)

'This is exceptional Lieder singing, fusing line, text and dynamics into an indivisible whole, all of it delivered with a conversational intimacy that is often breathtaking.'

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Schumann: Dichterliebe & Selected Songs

Mauro Peter (tenor), Helmut Deutsch (piano)

'Mauro Peter has the kind of Dichterliebe voice I hear in my mind’s ear: fresh, youthful, evenly produced, with mellifluousness balanced by a touch of metal.'

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Sibelius: In the Stream of Life

Gerald Finley (bass-baritone), Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra, Edward Gardner

'An impressive if idiosyncratic programme...Rautavaara seems to have wanted to reflect Sibelius’s broad stylistic range from full-blooded Romanticism to gnomic modernism.'

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