Gramophone Magazine Editor's Choice

September 2005

Disc of the Month

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J.S Bach: The Keyboard Concertos 1

Awards:

Gramophone Magazine

Disc of the Month - September 2005

Label:

Hyperion

Catalogue No:

CDA67307

Discs:

1

Release date:

23rd May 2005

Barcode:

0034571173078

Medium:

CD

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J.S Bach: The Keyboard Concertos 1


Bach, J S:

Keyboard Concerto No. 1 in D minor, BWV1052

Keyboard Concerto No. 7 in G minor, BWV1058

Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 in D major, BWV1050

Concerto for Flute, Violin & Harpsichord in A minor, BWV1044


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Together with its companion Volume 2, these CDs contain all Bach’s extant concertos that feature a solo keyboard. Most were written in the 1730s and are thought to be arrangements of earlier concertos, many of which are now lost (though two will be recognized as Bach’s E major and A minor violin concertos and the sixth is an arrangement of the fourth Brandenburg). The fifth Brandenburg Concerto, with harpsichord, flute and violin soloists, dates from 1721 and is generally regarded as the first concerto for a solo keyboard instrument ever written. Bach made the keyboard part particularly brilliant and included a huge cadenza; he certainly knew how to establish a genre with a bang!

Hewitt’s Bach is by now self-recommending but only after playing Bach across the world with numerous ensembles did Angela decide that the Australian Chamber Orchestra were the perfect collaborators. After a month of concerts across Australia these recordings were set down in Sydney in February of this year and the frisson of artists operating at the peak of their form is clear for all to hear. One is immediately struck by the quality of chamber-music playing as phrases are passed from soloist to orchestra and, in the case of Brandenburg Concerto No 5 and the Triple Concerto, between all three soloists. Rhythms are buoyant, tempos lively, the spirit of dance is never far away in the fast movements and a perfectly vocal quality pervades the sung lines of the slow movements.

These CDs will surely be the jewels in the crown of Angela Hewitt’s magnificent Bach series.

Gramophone Classical Music Guide

2010

“These are not entirely modern-instrument performances.
Angela Hewitt includes, as she says, 'a harpsichord in its traditional role as continuo'.
Combining old and new isn't unusual because in the early years of period performing practices, the likes of Thurston Dart, Raymond Leppard and George Malcolm married a harpsichord to modern strings and wind. What's unusual here is the melding of two different types of keyboard, one sharply transient, the other ductile; and just how their functions dovetail with one another may be heard in the slow movement of the Brandenburg Concerto No 5. Hewitt also adds a cello to the continuo while contributing notes inégales, appogiature and other embellishments to her own line. The result is a potent artistic synergy between the musicians.
Hewitt doesn't slavishly follow a formula, though. In the Adagio of No 1 and the Adagio epiano sempre of No 3 (where she is most intense because both remind her of Passion music), she omits the keyboard's bass notes for the exposition of the theme but only in No 1 does she play them for its return at the end. In these instances, in the Andante of No 7 and elsewhere, she also varies the prominence of her left hand to give the ripieno string bass a strong presence too, while delineating the right hand melody most feelingly.
Interpretative decisions are intelligently applied; and Hewitt is at her best in the slow movements, all of which are played with the finest sensibility. If a more sinewy approach to a few of the outer movements might not have come amiss, her ability to gauge the critical notes of phrases so as to maintain an elastically accented rhythm offers ample compensation; and the consummate Australian Chamber Orchestra is with her every step of the way. The flute is placed backward in BWV1044 but otherwise recorded balance and sound ensure unimpeded concentration on the performances.
Small changes in level between some works are easily adjusted. A superb pair of discs.”

Click on any of the works listed above for alternative recordings.

Editor's Choice

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Stravinsky: The Nightingale

Stravinsky: The Nightingale


Natalie Dessay (Le Rossignol), Marie McLaughlin (La cuisinière), Violeta Urmana (La Mort), Laurent Naouri (Le chambellan), Albert Schagigullin (L'empereur), Maxime Mikhailov (Le bonze), Hugo Simric (L'enfant)

Orchestre Et Chœur De L’opera National De Paris, James Conlon

“Too many mediocre stage productions are being preserved for vocal, not visual, reasons. All the more important, then, is a release like this where a skilled (and musically literate) film director uses state-of-the-art computer technology to sculpt a multi-dimensional portrait of Stravinsky's gorgeous pre-First World War opera-pantomime.
Christian Chaudet bases it on the well-received EMI recording of 1999, reuniting the major soloists in front of blank blue- and green-screens to act their hearts out to imaginary scenery, effects and people that the computer will supply later.
This technique, long used in feature films, has a range and flexibility that might have been created for 20th-century opera.
The film begins with a fairly traditional dream frame: a little boy 'sees' his father's pottery turn into a Chinese landscape introducing all the story's characters and events. Later, the Emperor who so desires the Nightingale's singing is seen to live in a forbidden city made of chinaware.
This image of communication via images coming to life is developed to include the presence of mobile phones (with the Nightingale's image and song), webcams and computer screens – a modernisation that works through seamless integration with more traditional references.
Relevant instruments of the orchestra are also frequently dropped into view as part of the digital landscape.
Wearing a selection of T-shirts that almost suggest a 1960s Bond girl, Natalie Dessay gives a mesmerising but never indulgent or twee performance as the Nightingale, sometimes with a real bird in the hand. Marie McLaughlin's Cook (who steers the Child through the dream) is equally comfortable and subtle on close-up camera, while Schagidullin, Mikhailov and Naouri exhibit much presence and facial dexterity. From all his players Chaudet has secured that deliberately unemotional and real acting that so distinguishes French (and American) cinema and is such an asset in music-theatre of this genre.
The DVD is of a high visual and sonic quality and (another rarity in opera releases) there are some worthwhile 'extras' not devoted to company promotion. These 'making of' features really show you something of how the film was technically achieved.
On the soundtrack (as we may now call it) James Conlon goes all out for a colour and bite that binds Stravinsky's 1908-09 Debussian Act 1 more closely to the 1913-14, post-Rite of Spring final acts than a trenchant, Boulezian approach might have done, although it is not the only way.
The singing is first-rate (as was the languagecoaching), seeming almost to have been achieved in anticipation of this outstanding film.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

“…Stravinsky… would surely have been intrigued, occasionally irritated and ultimately spellbound by Christian Chaudet's vision. Using singers from the original 1999 recording, Chaudet has drawn fine mimes from them; Dessay's nightshirted soul of the nightingale and Marie MacLaughlin's wide-eyed cook are especially convincing. Inevitably they're dwarfed by the computer-generated animation: in this haunting dream of a Chinese boy... It works surprisingly well. Love it or hate it, Chaudet's world will haunt you long after viewing.” BBC Music Magazine, September 2005 *****

GGramophone Magazine

DVD of the Month - September 2005

DVD Video

Region: 0

Format: PAL

Erato - 5442429

(DVD Video)

$16.75

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Karol Szymanowski - Works For Solo Piano

Karol Szymanowski - Works For Solo Piano


Szymanowski:

Piano Sonata No. 3, Op. 36

Métopes Op. 29 (Trois poèmes pour piano)

Masques (3), Op. 34


“Anderszewski out-classes his rivals in his Szymanowski recital” BBC Music Magazine, Proms Issue 2005

“Here Anderszewski turns his attention away from well-tried classics of the repertoire to Szymanowski and to 'an aura of extreme fin de siècle opulence' (John Ogdon). Szymanowski's neurotically questing imagination was fired by his travels in Africa and the Mediterranean; and leaving earlier influences of Chopin (the Op 1 Preludes) and a lengthy dalliance with Reger and Richard Strauss (the Second Piano Sonata) far behind, he turned to impressionism, to Debussy and the glittering, mosaic-like structures he inherited from Scriabin.
Yet despite such influences his music achieves a unique fragrance and character and both Masques and Métopes shed a new and scintillating light on the myths of ancient Greece. Such music calls for a pianist of unlimited, superfine virtuosity and a complete temperamental affinity for such exoticism, and in Anderszewski it has surely found its ideal champion. Under his astonishing mind and fingers the chains of trills at the climax of 'Schéhérazade' take on an incandescence that transcends their Scriabinesque origins and Anderszewski's razor-sharp clarity and stylistic assurance make you hang on every one of the composer's teeming notes.
Here and in Métopes every hyper-nervous fluctuation of mood is judged to an uncanny perfection and in the Third Sonata, where Szymanowski returns from his richly programmatic sources to a more objective if no less intricate utterance, every aspect of the music's refined and energetic life is held in a blazing light from which it is impossible to escape. Visceral and superhuman, all these performances have been superbly recorded.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

GGramophone Awards 2006

Winner - Instrumental

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - September 2005

BBC Music Magazine

Instrumental Choice

Erato - 5457302

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Enescu: Romanian Rhapsodies, Poème roumain & Orchestral Suites

Enescu: Romanian Rhapsodies, Poème roumain & Orchestral Suites


Enescu:

Romanian Rhapsody in A major, Op. 11 No. 1

Romanian Rhapsody in D major, Op. 11 No. 2

Poème roumain, Op. 1

Suite No. 3 in D major, Op. 27 'Villageoise'

Suite No. 1 in C, Op. 9

Suite No. 2 in C, Op. 20

Symphonie concertante in B flat minor for Cello & Orchestra, Op. 8

Franco Maggio-Ormezowski (cello)


“Enescu's three suites stand in relation to the symphonies rather as Tchaikovsky's suites relate to his symphonic works. The First opens with a striking prelude for strings in unison which in turn gives way to a gorgeous Menuet lent. The more formal Second Suite (which falls between the First and Second Symphonies) is based on Baroque models, while the relatively 'late' Third Suite, named Villageoise (it dates from 1938), overflows with invention, whether imitations of birdsong and children at play, or exquisite tonepainting of nature by day and night. Foster also offers us the early, 23-minute Symphonie concertante for cello and orchestra, his soloist Franco Maggio-Ormezowski unfolding its generous stream of melody with a warm, fluid tone.
Lawrence Foster's performances of these fascinating if occasionally over-effusive works provided a fitting tribute for the 50th anniversary of Enescu's death (1955). Do give this music a try. It combines the freshness of Dvorák with the earthand- spirit daring of Bartók; and while not quite on a level with either, it comes pretty damned close.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

“This lively companion-set to the multi-layered symphonies (reviewed in July) balances the Romaniana for which Enescu was famous with a very individual neo-classicism. Drily-recorded but dedicated accounts.” BBC Music Magazine, October 2005

GGramophone Magazine

Re-issue of the Month - September 2005

Apex - 2564620322

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Weill, K: Symphony No. 1 in one movement 'Berliner Symphony', etc.

Weill, K:

Symphony No. 1 in one movement 'Berliner Symphony'

Lady in the Dark - Symphonic Nocturne

(Concert Suite arr. Robert Russell Bennett)

Symphony No. 2 'Symphonic Fantasy'


“Weill's Symphony No 2 is one of his most important works but it is not music calculated to cheer one up. Commissioned by the Princesse de Polignac in 1933, Weill completed it during the months immediately following his flight from Germany, after the Nazi seizure of power. Coming just after Der Silbersee and Die sieben Todsünden, it has a number of thematic similarities to those works but also seems to hint at some of Weill's later music, composed in America. A deeply pessimistic piece in its first two movements, it nevertheless ends on a questioning note that may express hope, or at least the energy to continue.
The Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra under Marin Alsop give a satisfying performance.
For those who already possess versions of the ballet-chanté or the concerto, Alsop's programme may be more alluring. She achieves quite a triumph with the very early single-movement First Symphony, a student work never performed in the composer's lifetime: it's rarely played as confidently as here. The suite from Lady In theDark is just a curiosity; without Ira Gershwin's lyrics the tunes don't sound particularly enticing.
At least, though, it lightens the mood after some pretty relentless gloom. Excellent clear sound, at Naxos's price an easy recommendation.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - September 2005

Naxos - 8557481

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Mahler: Symphony No. 6 in A minor 'Tragic'

Mahler: Symphony No. 6 in A minor 'Tragic'


GGramophone Awards 2006

Record of the Year

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - September 2005

40 Years of the Gramophone Awards

DG - 4775573

(CD)

Normally: $14.00

Special: $11.20

(also available to download from $8.25)

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Alwyn: Piano Concertos Nos. 1 & 2

Alwyn: Piano Concertos Nos. 1 & 2


“Alwyn (whose centenary year fell in 2005) is a composer of strong communicative gifts and the best of his music exhibits a disarming emotional candour, generous lyricism, powerful sense of argument and superior craftsmanship.
If not as tautly constructed as, say, the Second, Third or Fifth Symphonies, the Second Piano Concerto undoubtedly makes pleasurable listening.
It was commissioned for the 1960 Proms, where its big-boned theatricality and unabashed ardour would surely have gone down a treat had the dedicatee, the Dutch virtuoso Cor de Groot, not been struck down by sudden paralysis of his right arm. As a consequence, the work remained unheard until Howard Shelley's passionate 1993 Chandos recording with Hickox and the LSO. If anything, Peter Donohoe proves an even more dashing soloist and he is supported to the hilt by James Judd and an audibly fired-up Bournemouth SO. An airy, tastefully balanced production, too.
Similarly, these accomplished newcomers set out a most persuasive case for the much earlier, single- movement First Concerto, a likeable offering with echoes of Ireland and Walton, written in 1930 for Alwyn's fellow RAM graduate and good friend, Clifford Curzon.
Canny programming allows us to hear the bustling 1960 overture Derby Day that Alwyn fashioned as a replacement for the ill-starred Second Concerto. Judd's spry performance is in every way the equal of both its fine predecessors, and the disc concludes with the exuberant Sonata alla toccata. This was composed in 1945- 46 for Denis Matthews and Donohoe dispatches it with purposeful aplomb and dazzling technical prowess. Yet another Naxos winner.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - September 2005

Naxos British Piano Concertos - 8557590

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$8.75

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