Gramophone Editor's Choices - January 2017

by Chris O'Reilly. 11th January 2017

We couldn't agree more with Gramophone's January Disc of the Month - Lisa Batiashvili's superb accounts of the Tchaikovsky and Sibelius Violin Concertos with Daniel Barenboim and the Staatskapelle Berlin on Deutsche Grammophon was one of our Top Ten Recordings of the Year and is still receiving regular air-time in the Presto office two months after release! (Katherine's exclusive interview with Lisa can be found here).

Also featured is Alban Gerhardt's imaginative tribute to Mstislav Rostropovich (who would have turned 90 in March of this year) on Hyperion - if you missed it last week, you can read our in-depth interview with Alban here).

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Recording of the Month

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...Every familiar phrase somehow manages to sound both authoritative and newly discovered...a delight from start to finish.'

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Editor's Choices

Rostropovich Encores

Alban Gerhardt (cello) & Markus Becker (piano)

'To explore the tracks on this recording is to explore Rostropovich himself, and Gerhardt’s performances themselves approach this mission in different ways...a genuinely thoughtful and engaging tribute recital, and a compelling partner to [Gerhardt's] Casals.'

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Schubert & Sibelius: Death and the Maiden & Voces Intimae

Ehnes Quartet

'[The Schubert] is anguished, yes, but in place of rough-edged abandon we get a razor-sharp, perfectly blended precision that verily slices through the air...The Ehnes Quartet’s Sibelius tells a similar story of deep soul painted with a panoply of colours, dynamics and emotion, with a natural dramatic flow throughout.'

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Aspects

Aquarelle Guitar Quartet

'All is performed with that same customary blend of high-octane virtuosity, relaxed lyricism, tonal richness and perfection of ensemble which has made the Aquarelle Guitar Quartet not merely one of the world’s leading guitar ensembles but, for sheer imagination and musicality, equal to the finest string quartet going.'

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Chopin: Sonata in B minor

Charles Richard-Hamelin (piano)

'Richard-Hamelin is a supremely artistic, highly sensitive yet thoroughly masculine young pianist, whose strikingly original ideas remain true to the spirit of Chopin..[He ]has bold, original ideas about the music he plays, the emotional reservoirs to back them up and the technical equipment to convey them without distraction.'

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Music For My Love

Kodály Philharmonic Orchestra, Paul Mann

'She was a woman of quiet dignity and this quality has been captured in this remarkable sequence of works which – for all the diversity of style, scale and format – plays through like one huge mega composition...The performances are sensitively realised under Paul Mann’s firm direction.'

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Hérold: Le Pré aux clercs

Marie-Ève Munger (Isabelle Montal), Marie Lenormand (Marguerite de Valois), Jeanne Crousaud (Nicette), Michael Spyres (Mergy); Coro e Orquestra Gulbenkian, Paul McCreesh

'Hérold’s effervescent music is performed with tremendous charm by Paul McCreesh and the Gulbenkian Orchestra...Munger [is] in exquisite form, coloratura cascading like champagne...Ensembles fizz and it’s a joy to hear the mostly francophone cast in acres of dialogue.'

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JS Bach: Cantatas Nos 54, 82 & 170

Iestyn Davies (countertenor), Arcangelo, Jonathan Cohen

'Cohen’s invigorating direction of the top notch Arcangelo and Davies’s extraordinarily questing approach make for a happy balance between abstract delight and rhetorical flair...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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Beethoven: The Solo Concertos

Stefan Vladar (piano), Isabelle van Keulen (violin), Julian Steckel (cello); Wiener KammerOrchester

'The ingredients are ideal for the job: abundant energy; bold, clear-sighted interpretation; brilliant though intelligently deployed pianism; poetic handling of the various slow movements; vital conducting and orchestral playing that fits the ‘chamber orchestra’ template like a glove. I loved it.'

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Alessandro Scarlatti: Missa defunctorum

Odhecaton, Paolo Da Col

'The interweaving voices produce an attractive juxtaposition of density and transparency. Texts are declaimed crisply yet sensitively, melismatic vowels possess compassionate luminosity, and plangent contrapuntal contours illuminate Scarlatti’s harmonic chiaroscuro. The highlight is the chromatically charged ‘Lacrimosa’, its exquisite dissonances and harmonic twists redolent of Gesualdo.'

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Blu-ray of the Month

Handel: Alcina & Tamerlano

Sandrine Piau (Alcina), Jeremy Ovenden (Bajazet), Christophe Dumaux (Tamerlano); Les Talens Lyriques, Christophe Rousset

'Audi’s post-Baroque stagings are often astutely deliberate in pacing and action, and are designed simply but artfully ...Rousset copiously sprinkles magical fairy dust in a fantastic performance of the music. From the first bow-stroke of the Overture, Les Talens Lyriques play with exceptional mastery of textures, moods and styles...This is essential viewing for those who take Handel as a dramatist seriously.'

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Re-issue of the Month

JS Bach: The Complete Keyboard Workss

Zuzana Růžičková (harpsichord)

'A significant set celebrating this fine harpsichordist’s survey of Bach’s solo keyboard music.'

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