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“In the use of words like sensational, extraordinary, phenomenal, etc., critics have to be sparing, at risk of their credibility. But these adjectives are all appropriate to this new Chopin recital by Stephen Hough, which vaults him to the top rung in this repertoire, right next to Rubinstein”
“This is astonishing piano playing; Chopin interpretation that, at its best, fully measuring up to the greatness of these pieces. Stephen Hough's accounts offer plenty of refreshment to spirit and senses. The distribution is interesting, chronological but alternating one of each, which may not make a recital to consume at one go, but helps to point up their diversity and individual character, as well as Chopin's mastery of large forms. Hough is unfailingly thoughtful; there isn't a note that hasn't been cared for. Just a few of them (Third Ballade, for example) are picked out of the texture and strung together for our delectation in a way that might strike you as otiose if you're in a sober-sides kind of mood. The surfaces of his presentations are very 'worked', more indicative of application, maybe, than of organic growth. But this isn't superficial playing – the performances catch fire. He inclines to the accepted view that Chopin's large forms have a 'plot' that culminates in a tumult or a whirlwind of activity. The tempest in the coda of the Fourth Ballade might have been a mite less furious, to let the ear have more time to register what's going on. The closing pages of No 1, on the other hand, have an exemplary finish and allure. Most distinguished of the Ballades is No 2, where Hough perceives the invasion of one kind of music by another in all its subtlety and lays out a spellbinding sevenminute drama. He has interesting points to make in the Scherzos, too. Where many a player is content to let recurring sections and paragraphs register simply as the music we heard before, with him they sound different in some degree, affected by what's come in between. Hough is always doing something, though sometimes you might wish he were doing less. This is an issue out of the ordinary; welcome, too, for being handsomely recorded and produced.”
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Winner of numerous awards including the Gramophone Record of the Year 2004, this is one of the must-have opera recordings of all time.
"This is the only suitable adjective to define what we are looking for, with our period instruments, our fast tempos, the performance of the recitatives, the ornaments added here and there by the singers, and a few other features that may surprise the audience: an approach that is not ‘Baroque’ – the term would be wholly out of place here – but ‘neo-Classical’, as opposed to the ‘post-Romantic’ one which began to determine our listening habits in the first half of the twentieth century. Every period has its own Mozart tradition; the neo-Classical approach is the fruit of an increasingly intense desire, not to ‘reconstruct’ musical performance practices of Mozart’s time, but to utilise them with the imagination proper to the individual personality of each musician, as important elements that are nevertheless subordinate to an overall vision." René Jacobs
“René Jacobs always brings new ideas to the operas he conducts, and even to a work as familiar as Figaro he adds something of his own. First of all he offers an orchestral balance quite unlike what we are used to. Those who specially relish a Karajan or a Solti will hardly recognise the work, with its strongly wind-biased orchestral balance: you simply don't hear the violins as the 'main line' of the music. An excellent corrective to a tradition that was untrue to Mozart, to be sure, but possibly the pendulum has swung a little too far. Jacobs is freer over tempo than most conductors. The Count's authoritarian pronouncements are given further weight by a faster tempo: it gives them extra decisiveness, though the music then has to slow down. There are other examples of such flexibility, sometimes a shade disconcerting, but always with good dramatic point. The Count's Act 3 duet with Susanna is one example: the little hesitancies enhanced and pointed up, if perhaps with some loss in energy and momentum. Tempos are generally on the quick side of normal, notably in the earlier parts of the Act 2 finale; but Jacobs is willing to hold back, too, for example in the Susanna-Marcellina duet, in the fandango, and in the G major music at the dénouement where the Count begs forgiveness. The cast is excellent. Véronique Gens offers a beautifully natural, shapely 'Porgi amor' and a passionate and spirited 'Dove sono'. The laughter in Patrizia Ciofi's voice is delightful when she's dressing up Cherubino, and she has space in 'Deh vieni' for a touchingly expressive performance. Then there's Angelika Kirschlager's Cherubino, alive and urgent in 'Non so più', every little phrase neatly moulded. Lorenzo Regazzo offers a strong Figaro, with a wide range of voice – angry and determined in 'Se vuol ballare', nicely rhythmic with some softer colours in 'Non più andrai', and pain and bitterness in 'Aprite'. The Count of Simon Keenlyside is powerful, menacing, lean and dark in tone. Marie McLaughlin sings Marcellina with unusual distinction. Strongly cast, imaginatively directed: it's a Figaro well worth hearing.” Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010
“René Jacobs conducts one of the refreshing versions of Figaro to be issued in many years...Véronique Gens is one of the most distinguished of Countesses, and Patrizia Ciofi is a sparkling Susanna, while Simon Keenlyside is a superb Count, well contrasted with the strongly acted Figaro of Lorenzo Regazzo.” Penguin Guide, 2010 ****
“This, the longest of Hummel's five Masses, is another invigorating example, coupled with an electrifying setting of the Te Deum. Both were written in 1806 and feature martial reminders that this was the period of the Napoleonic Wars. The Te Deum opens with a rousing march, and with one or two relaxed passages for contrast – illustrating this long and varied prayer-text – continues in a single span. It ends with a brisk and triumphant fugato, quite different from the sombre close most often heard in Anglican settings. It's a delight. Uwe Grodd draws an exhilarating performance from his forces. The performance of the Mass is equally successful. The grandeur of the writing is established in the slow introduction to the Kyrie, leading to a brisk main Allegro (following Haydn's lively practice in Kyries) in a rhythmic triple time. The martial flavour of the writing is evident from the Gloria's opening fanfares and continues into the Credo, until a sharp change of key to a warm A major brings a relaxed and lyrical setting of 'Et incarnatus', followed by the clashing discords of the 'Crucifixus'. 'Et resurrexit' restores the military mood. One moment to relish comes after the last of the calls of 'Credo' on 'Et vitam venturi' (track 4, 9'09") with two rising scale passages clearly intended to send you up to Heaven in their exhilaration. Brodd opts to use his admirable soloists throughout the Benedictus, even though the autograph suggests otherwise. It works very well, with imitative writing for the soloists set against the four-square tread of the orchestra. With the Agnus Dei Hummel at last writes a meditative movement, slow and hushed, which develops into chromatic writing in a minor key, before the 'Dona nobis pacem', as in Haydn's masses, brings a joyful close. Grodd inspires vigorous playing and singing from his forces, who are freshly and cleanly recorded.” Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010
“Noseda brings out the best in the whole orchestra in the Symphony and Bianca” BBC Music Magazine, August 2006
“This second BBC Philharmonic Karpowicz disc complements the first with three earlier works. Composed in the first two years of the 20th century, Karpowicz's 40-minute Rebirth Symphony is very much of its time – not just in its ambitious programmatic span from existential despair to world-saving apotheosis, but in its opulent post-Tchaikovskian idiom. Though he clearly overreached himself, this is a needto- know piece for anyone interested in the aspirational Zeitgeist prevalent before the First World War. Most immediately appealing, perhaps, is the slow movement, which features a tender song-like theme that British listeners may connect with the hymn 'My song is love unknown'. The symphonic prologue Bianca da Molena is extracted from music for a now forgotten Polish play; not surprisingly it contains many echoes of Wagner. The Serenade for String Orchestra is an apprentice piece with a certain charm, notably in the vaguely Parsifalian slow movement, which helps to compensate for the disappointment of the cursory finale. The BBC Philharmonic's playing and Chandos's recording uphold their customary high standards.” Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010
“This is a landmark recording and a courageous venture. It's probably the first devoted to Machaut's motets, containing no fewer than 18 of the 23 that survive. It's certainly the first to present them in the order in which Machaut himself presented them in his own manuscripts. And the performances are of a truly mandarin refinement. Here are The Hilliard Ensemble with goodness knows how many combined years of experience performing this kind of music in public; they aren't just on the top of their form but also constantly showing the fruits of that experience. The results of that refinement may surprise some listeners. Tempos tend to be rather slower than on earlier recordings: it's as though they feel no need for lily-gilding, no need to apologise for the music, where earlier performances injected possibly gratuitous energy into Machaut's lines. Dissonances are often made to disappear almost without trace, which will disappoint those who thought the clashes to be the very lifeblood of Machaut's music. (It must be absolutely clear that this was an informed decision by The Hilliards, many of whom have performed this music with other groups over the years.) Diction tends to be clearer than in some recent recordings, and – perhaps most surprising of all – they refrain from adopting current views on the early French pronunciation of Latin. These are all features that could make some listeners find it a touch dull; they might even find that they scarcely recognise old favourites. But they're superbly done, and the performances give the best avenue yet to gaining access to Machaut's still perplexing but always irresistible art.” Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010