Gramophone Magazine Editor's Choice

February 2006

Disc of the Month

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Jacqueline du Pré

Awards:

Gramophone Magazine

Disc of the Month - February 2006

Label:

Testament

Catalogue No:

SBT1388
(SBT 1388)

Discs:

1

Release date:

1st Nov 2005

Barcode:

0749677138820

Medium:

CD
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Jacqueline du Pré


Bach, J S:

Cello Suite No. 1 in G major, BWV1007

Cello Suite No. 2 in D minor, BWV1008

Elgar:

Cello Concerto in E minor, Op. 85

(recorded live in Prague)


CD

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Elgar: Cello Concerto In E Minor, Op. 85 - 1. Adagio Moderato

Elgar: Cello Concerto In E Minor, Op. 85 - 2. Lento, Allegro Molto

Elgar: Cello Concerto In E Minor, Op. 85 - 3. Adagio

Elgar: Cello Concerto In E Minor, Op. 85 - 4. Allegro Moderato

Bach: Cello Suite #1 In G, BWV 1007 - Praeludium

Bach: Cello Suite #1 In G, BWV 1007 - Allemande

Bach: Cello Suite #1 In G, BWV 1007 - Courante

Bach: Cello Suite #1 In G, BWV 1007 - Sarabande

Bach: Cello Suite #1 In G, BWV 1007 - Menuet #1 & 2

Bach: Cello Suite #1 In G, BWV 1007 - Gigue

Bach: Cello Suite #2 In D Minor, BWV 1008 - Praeludium

Bach: Cello Suite #2 In D Minor, BWV 1008 - Allemande

Bach: Cello Suite #2 In D Minor, BWV 1008 - Courante

Bach: Cello Suite #2 In D Minor, BWV 1008 - Sarabande

Bach: Cello Suite #2 In D Minor, BWV 1008 - Menuet #1 & 2

Bach: Cello Suite #2 In D Minor, BWV 1008 - Gigue

Gramophone Classical Music Guide

2010

“Jacqueline du Pré was 20 when she recorded Elgar's Cello Concerto with Barbirolli and the LSO August 1965 – an interpretation universally acclaimed for its profound expressiveness (see above). A second recording, taped live in 1970 with Daniel Barenboim and the Philadelphia Orchestra, has proved more controversial; du Pré's radiant intensity remains undimmed but instead of the nobility found in the EMI account one hears desperation, or something close to it.
This new Testament disc makes public another live document, recorded in Prague with Barbirolli and the BBC Symphony Orchestra. The general shape of this performance resembles the EMI recording, not surprisingly given that the studio session had taken place a little more than a year before. But while du Pré was always an electric player, the voltage clearly increased before an audience. One hears the difference immediately as she digs into the opening solo with startling urgency. Tempi, in general, are noticeably faster; and although Barbirolli and the orchestra occasionally fall behind, the phrasing is longer-breathed and the sections flow more smoothly one into the other.
Du Pré (onstage and a year on from the EMI version) finds a greater variety of mood in the score. The dolcissimo Elgar asks for at fig 8 (starting at 3'58" in the first movement) evokes an audible smile in the cellist's sound, for example.
Or try her magical way with the swooping phrase at 3'10" in the Adagio: the high note is floated beautifully in the studio but in concert her tone and timing take one's breath away. Best of all, perhaps, is the finale's Poco più lento (beginning at 6'42"), where du Pré's playing has an emotive force and eloquence akin to the greatest Shakespearian oratory – Barbirolli and the orchestra provide splendid support here.
Youthful (and previously released) interpretations of Bach's first two cello suites round out the disc, but the Elgar here is valuable enough to merit the highest possible recommendation.”

Gramophone Magazine

February 2006

“Jacqueline de Pré was 20 when she recorded Elgar's Cello Concerto with Sir John Barbirolli and the LSO in August 1965… This new Testament disc makes public another live document, recorded in Prague with Barbirolli and the BBC Symphony Orchestra. …while du Pré was always an electric player, the voltage clearly increased before an audience. One hears the difference immediately as she digs into the opening solo with startling urgency. Tempi, in general, are noticeably faster... I would venture to say, too, that du Pré (onstage and a year on) finds a greater variety of mood in the score. Best of all, perhaps, is the finale's Poco più lento (beginning at 6'42"), where du Pré's playing has an emotive force and eloquence akin to the greatest Shakespearian oratory - Barbirolli and the orchestra provide splendid support here.”

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

Editor's Choice

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Mendelssohn - The Piano Trios

Mendelssohn - The Piano Trios


Mendelssohn:

Piano Trio No. 1 in D minor, Op. 49

Piano Trio No. 2 in C minor, Op. 66


“With its unforgettable opening cello theme, the D minor First has always been the more favoured of the two. But in a performance as subtle and impassioned as the Florestan's, the C minor Second seems at least as fine. The powerful, almost Brahmsian first movement alone should give the lie to the cliché that Mendelssohn's genius declined irredeemably after the brilliance of youth. While always keeping the potentially dense textures lucid (Susan Tomes's refined, singing tone and articulation a constant pleasure), the Florestan play this with a mingled fire and lyrical tenderness that it's hard to imagine bettered.
The flowing barcarolle slow movement has a crucial quality of innocence, and the flickering nocturnal Scherzo is as delicate and pointed as you could wish, at a tempo close to Mendelssohn's optimistically fast marking, while the Chamber Mendelssohn 736 finale drives impulsively towards its triumphant chorale apotheosis, grandly inevitable rather than bombastic.
From the yearning opening, the great cello melody surging across the barlines, the Florestan are equally vivid in the D minor Trio. Scrupulously observant, as ever, of Mendelssohn's detailed dynamic markings, they make you more than usually aware of how much of the music is held down to piano and pianissimo; and the moment at the start of the recapitulation, where Richard Lester's warm cello is counterpoised with violinist Anthony Marwood's fragile, floated descant, is as magical as you will hear.
Again the Florestan favour an easily flowing tempo for the song-without-words slow movement, phrasing in long spans (uncommonly pure, luminous duetting from Marwood and Lester) and finding a touch of playfulness when the main theme returns. Just as fine are the irresistible airborne Scherzo and the finale, where the Florestan, taking note of the qualifying unpoco tranquillo, make the opening march unusually pensive before sweeping forward with an authentically Mendelssohnian mix of restless agitation, grace and lyrical fervour. Pleasure in these superb performances is enhanced by a beautifully natural recording and Robert Philip's detailed, illuminating notes.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

“What immediately impresses about these performances by the Florestan Trio is the lightness and clarity of the playing, with Susan Tomes characteristically sparing in her use of pedal. …this well-recorded new disc offers exceptionally fine accounts of these two great works.” BBC Music Magazine, October 2005

“With its unforgettable opening cello theme, the D minor First has always been the more favoured of the two. But in a performance as subtle and impassioned as the Florestan's, the C minor Second seems at least as fine. The powerful, almost Brahmsian first movement alone should give the lie to the cliché that Mendelssohn's genius declined irredeemably after the brilliance of youth. ...the Florestan play this with a mingled fire and lyrical tenderness that I have never heard bettered. From the yearning opening, the great cello melody surging across the barlines, the Florestan are equally vivid in the D minor Trio. Pleasure in these superb performances is enhanced by a beautifully natural recording and Robert Philip's detailed, illuminating notes.” Gramophone Magazine, February 2006

“Dazzling playing from this splendid ensemble puts the Florestan Trio at the very top of the list for these attractive and much-recorded works. The freshness of response and the virtuosity of the pianist, the inimitable Susan Tomes, make this coupling pretty irresistable.” Penguin Guide, 2011 edition

“This pairing of Mendelssohn's two Piano Trios from the Florestan Trio combines a deeply-felt lyricism with a lightness of touch (respecting among other things the sheer quietness of the dynamics) -enabling the graceful side of these works to come through. Pianist Susan Tomes is particularly excellent.” David Smith, Presto Classical, December 2014

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - February 2006

Hyperion - CDA67485

(CD)

$14.25

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Reflection

Reflection


Brahms:

Cello Sonata No. 1 In E minor, Op. 38

Rhapsodies (2), Op. 79

Schumann:

Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 54

Schumann, Clara:

Er ist gekommen in Sturm und Regen, Op. 12 No. 2 (Text: Friedrich Rückert)

Warum willst du and're fragen, Op. 12 No. 11 (Text: Friedrich Rückert)

Am Strande


“If you've heard this lovely work [the Concerto] once too often in a merely average performance, then drink deeply at Grimaud's spring, for you'll leave refreshed...not an overblown romantic gesture, and no cloying sentimentality; instead a strong, straightforward reading where every note seems just so, yet without feeling calculated.” Andrew McGregor, bbc.co.uk, 7th March 2006

“…even if her Schumann Concerto had come out on its own… I'd still strongly recommend it. From her first two forte chords it is clear this is going to be something special. Every single phrase, change of mood or colour, sounds as though it has been lovingly rediscovered.” BBC Music Magazine, February 2006 *****

“Hélène Grimaud presents us with a second lovingly themed gift, this time mirroring the entwined love of Robert and Clara Schumann and their adored protégé, Johannes Brahms. Grimaud's performance of Robert's Piano Concerto is a superbly bracing riposte to more indulgent and sentimental readings. Brilliantly partnered by Esa-Pekka Salonen, who conducts with all the joy of first discovery, she launches the work with fierce authority before playing the principal theme with a rare sense of its expressivo and affetuoso character. She is no less bold and impassioned partnering Anne Sofie von Otter, an ideal match for a singer whose intensity and vision leave you in no doubt that Clara was a more-than-gifted composer as well as a great pianist. ...joins Truls Mørk in the E minor Cello Sonata, where you get an almost palpable sense of the artists lifting each other to heights they might find hard to achieve alone. Few performances on record have a more robust eloquence and fervour.” Gramophone Magazine, February 2006

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - February 2006

CD Review

Critics Disc of the Year - December 2006

BBC Music Magazine

Orchestral Choice - February 2006

DG - 4775719

(CD)

$13.25

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Schubert: Octet in F major, D803

Schubert: Octet in F major, D803


Mullova Ensemble

“A spacious performance, enthralling and poetic: it leaves behind the world of happy Viennese music-making. Instead, we have a view of the Octet as one of Schubert's major achievments, sharing much common ground with the other great chamber works of 1824, the A minor and D minor string quartets.
The Adagio is taken unusually slowly, but without any feeling of the rhythm sagging – the effect is unexpectedly profound and meditative.
The following Scherzo is unhurried, too, yet is still full of spirit; it's beautifully poised, with each phrase convincingly shaped. There's only one movement, the Minuet, where the measured approach is maybe overdone; it's marked Allegretto, after all, and here the effect is distinctly languid. However, the romantic feeling of the first movement's introductory Adagio is perfectly captured, and the corresponding slow introduction to the finale, whose melodrama can sometimes sound like a tongue-in cheek shock tactic, emerges here as one extreme of a multifaceted yet perfectly unified work.
And the thoughtful shaping of phrases isn't confined to the Scherzo; it's present throughout, keeping us constantly aware of the music's expressive power. Even when these inflections seem slightly contentious – in the finale's main theme, for example – they contribute to a constant feeling of lively communication.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

“A spacious performance, enthralling and poetic… The Adagio is taken unusually slowly, but without any feeling of the rhythm sagging - the effect is unexpectedly profound and meditative.” Gramophone Magazine, February 2006

“These artists find a greater depth than their predecessors in a work that we all think we know well. There is not only grace, pathos and tenderness here, but also a thoughtful attention to details of phrasing and internal balance...musically a most satisfying and revealing account - and a moving one too” Penguin Guide, 2011 edition

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - February 2006

Onyx - ONYX4006

(CD)

$14.25

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Mahler - The Symphonies

Mahler - The Symphonies


Mahler:

Symphonies 1-9 (complete)

Das Lied von der Erde


STEREO: PCM / SURROUND: DTS 5.1 · Picture Format: 4:3

Subtitles: German/English/French/Spanish/Chinese/Latin

DVD also available singly. This box set includes exclusive bonus DVD of rehearsal footage available only in this 9-DVD box.

“Between 1971 and 1976 Humphrey Burton directed filmed concerts of Bernstein conducting the nine Mahler symphonies, along with DasLied von der Erde and the Adagio from the unfinished Tenth. Previous VHS and laserdisc incarnations suffered from uneven sound and occasional discrepancies of synchronisation between screen image and audio. Happily, DG's new DVD edition not only corrects these problems but also refurbishes the soundtracks in vibrant 5.1 surround sound.
Little can be added to the many words written about Bernstein's intense affinity for and ardent advocacy of Mahler. Indeed, the musicality and specificity of Bernstein's body language often seems to create parallel universes to each score's emotional peaks and dynamic valleys. One doesn't have to turn up the volume to sense the exultation and drive with which Bernstein inspires the huge forces in the Eighth's first part or the Second's final pages, gauging the protracted climaxes as he clenches his baton with both hands in long, agonising downward strokes. Watch, too, how Bernstein's eagle eyes and decisive hands anticipate tricky entries and tempo changes in the Fifth's second movement and the Seventh's first with unshakeable authority, or how he instantaneously adjusts dynamics and aligns rhythmic vagaries (the Fourth's opening bars, the Third's percussion).
Yet for all of Bernstein's podium choreography, he also knows when to stand back and simply let the musicians play, casually passing the baton back and forth between his hands, as in stretches of the Third's and Ninth's final movements and the Tenth's Adagio. And, like a benign sovereign, he frequently shoots his players and singers encouraging glances, with plenty of smiles to reward the Vienna Philharmonic's first-desk soloists, as well as their counterparts in the LSO (No 2) and the Israel Philharmonic (Das Lied).
Burton's visual style works hand-in-glove with Mahler's orchestration and dynamic game plans, saving close-ups for quiet passages and quick inserts that underline instrumental entrances.
In general, Bernstein's filmed Mahler interpretations represent a centre-point between the raw excitement characterising much of his pioneering 1960s CBS/Sony cycle and his riper, often more expansive late-1980s remakes. On balance, the video Fourth, Fifth and Ninth are Bernstein's finest performances of these works. The Fifth is faster and more incisively shaped than his 1987 traversal and the Vienna players get better as the performance progresses. Edith Mathis looks as radiant as she sings in the Fourth's finale. The Vienna Ninth is notable for the other-worldly stillness and delicacy of the final pages while the central movements bring the sort of abandon he shows in his 1960s Ninth.
A bonus disc provides additional and valuable context. 'Four Ways to Say Farewell' combines rehearsal and performance footage of the Ninth as a backdrop to Bernstein's narration, where he fancifully if plausibly likens the first movement's long-short rhythmic motive to Mahler's irregular heartbeat. Rehearsals of the Fifth reveal an even more balletic, gesticulative conductor than the public usually saw, along with important insights into the music's character (at one point Bernstein cajoles the brass to play 'like in Italian opera', pinpointing the influence of Verdi on Mahler that most critics gloss over).
A Das Lied rehearsal shows Christa Ludwig haggling over the breakneck tempo Bernstein sets in the 'Von der Schönheit' central section.
Then there is Bernstein at the piano, chainsmoking, giving an informal discourse on the work's symbolism and chamber-like orchestration ('You have to prepare an entire orchestra as if it was a string quartet').
In an age when Mahler's symphonies are ubiquitous, it's fascinating to witness the missionary zeal of Bernstein more than three decades ago, claiming how his 'acting out' the music rather than merely beating time helps him to convince his orchestras of the its greatness. With Bernstein at the helm, one doesn't take Mahler's greatness for granted.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

“Arguably this midway view on video is the finest of the three [of Bernstein's Mahler Cycles], and certainly the addition of video to the formula adds another layer of intensity, when here is a conductor who, almost Christ-like, physically seemed to suffer as he conducted, so dedicated was he.” Penguin Guide, 2010 **/*

“Little can be added to the many words written about Bernstein's intense affinity for and ardent advocacy of Mahler. One doesn't have to turn up the volume to sense the exultation and drive with which Bernstein inspired the huge forces in the Eighth's first part or the Second's final pages, gauging the protracted climaxes as he clenches his baton with both hands in long, agonising downward strokes. In general, Bernstein's filmed Mahler interpretations represent a centre-point between the raw excitement characterising much of his pioneering 1960s cycle and his riper, often more expansive late-1980s remakes. On balance, the video Fourth, Fifth, and Ninth are Bernstein's finest performances of these works. A bonus disc provides additional and valuable context. 'Four Ways to Say Farewell' combines rehearsal and performance footage of the Ninth as a backdrop to Bernstein's narration, where he fancifully if plausibly likens the first movement's long-short rhythmic motive to Mahler's irregular heartbeat.” Gramophone Magazine, February 2006

GGramophone Magazine

DVD of the Month - February 2006

Building a Library

DVD Choice - May 2007

DVD Video

Region: 0

Format: NTSC

DG Unitel - 0734088

(DVD Video - 9 discs)

$88.25

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Debussy: Piano Music Volume 3

Debussy: Piano Music Volume 3


Debussy:

Préludes - Book 2 (12, complete)

Berceuse héroïque

Pièce pour l'oeuvre du ‘Vêtement du blessé'

Élégie, L138

La Boîte à joujoux


Noriko Ogawa (piano)

“Captivating playing” of “exceeding beauty and refinement” have earned the previous volumes of Noriko Ogawa's Debussy cycle the highest recommendations, including no less than two Editor's Choice in Gramophone.

“Volume 3 of Noriko Ogawa's highly praised Debussy cycle includes a superlative performance of La boîte à joujoux that's worth the price of the disc alone. Here, the wildest selection of characters, folk tunes and operas – whether gentle or uncouth, charmers or roustabouts – twirl and tapdance their way through an intricate variety of steps clearly inspired by Stravinsky's Petrushka.
Ogawa responds to every fleeting whimsicality with such clarity and refinement that you are lost in wonder and almost forget that the piano version finally outstays its welcome.
On more authentic pianistic ground, Ogawa wears her sense of Debussian mystery lightly, taking a sometimes disappointingly open-ended view of some of the composer's most poignant and interior thoughts. Scrupulously modern in her approach, she scorns all sentimental evasion but, while she's never less than musicianly, one would have liked a greater awareness of elegy in the Berceuse héroïque, and, in the Préludes, more of the whirring evanescence and less of the superficially abstract, étude-like character in 'Les tierces alternées'.
'Brouillards' and 'Canope' are other coolly perceived evocations and Ogawa is surely happier when not confined by so many pianissimo demands. 'Feux d'artifice' and 'La puerto del vino' are outstanding examples of her virtuosity at its most superfine and characterful.
These, then, are masterly performances even when they hardly sound like music composed 'for an instrument without hammers'. The sound, like the playing, is close, bright and intense.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

“…it is Ogawa's performance of the second book of Preludes that grabs the headlines, for she has both the range of colour and the emotional flexibility to bring the Preludes alive. It takes a remarkably multi-faceted pianist to capture the diversity of moods so successfully... Ogawa seriously challenges Krystian Zimerman's hegemony of the Preludes amongst modern accounts.” BBC Music Magazine, February 2006 *****

“...we can marvel again at how completely she and Debussy transcend the percussive limitations of the piano without ever romanticising or sentimentalising these miniature masterpieces.” Andrew McGregor, bbc.co.uk, 14th February 2006

“…a superlative performance of La boîte à joujoux ('Ballet pour enfants')… Ogawa responds to every fleeting whimsicality with such clarity and refinement that you are lost in wonder and almost forget that the piano version finally outstays its welcome. Feux d'artifice and La Puerto del Vino are outstanding examples of her virtuosity at its most superfine and characterful.” Gramophone Magazine, February 2006

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - February 2006

BIS Noriko Ogawa Debussy Complete Piano Music - BISCD1355

(CD)

$14.25

(also available to download from $10.00)

Usually despatched in 2 - 3 working days. (Available now to download.)

Stanford: String Quintet No. 1, etc.

Stanford:

String Quintet No. 1

with Garth Knox (viola)

Piano Quintet

with Piers Lane (piano)


“…the Piano Quintet in D minor owes much to the example of the Schumann and Brahms quintets… it’s a mightily impressive achievement all round… A considerable discovery… which Piers Lane and the Vanbrugh Quartet do absolutely proud. For the First String Quintet of 1903 the Vanbrugh are joined by violist Garth Knox... to give a passionate and stylish rendering of a piece of such beguiling facility and songful grace that one is amazed that it has lain neglected for so long.” Gramophone Magazine, February 2006

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - February 2006

Hyperion - CDA67505

(CD)

$14.25

Usually despatched in 2 - 3 working days.

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