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“Queyras's honeyed tone is breathtaking, while Tharaud's accompaniment is a model of delicacy and thoughtfulness. A ravishing recital.” The Independent on Sunday *****
“a masterstroke of programme planning” Gramophone Magazine
“The aristocratic duo of Queyras and Tharaud give a subtle, serious performance, unusually wide in its range of expression and colour… enjoy the duo's wonderfully imaginative performances, whether in the eerie,
evanescent Webern miniatures or Berg's unique mix of yearning Romanticism and Expressionist violence.” The Telegraph
BBC Music Magazine
Chamber Choice - December 2006
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Stage Production by Colin Graham, Set Design by Colin Graham, Alix Stone & Costume Design by Alix Stone
Sarah Walker (Elizabeth I), Anthony Rolfe Johnson (Essex), Jean Rigby (Lady Essex), Richard Van Allan (Raleigh), Elizabeth Vaughn (Lady Penelope Rich), Alan Opie (Cecil), Neil Howlett (Mountjoy), Malcolm Donnelly (Henry Cuffe), Lynda Russell (Lady in Waiting), Norman Bailey (Ballad Singer)
Chorus and Orchestra of the English National Opera, Mark Elder
Recording Date: 1984
Place of recording: From the London Coliseum
Running Time: 147 min
Picture Format: 4:3
Sound Format: PCM Stereo
Menu Languages NTSC: D, F, GB, SP
Subtitle Languages NTSC: D, F, GB, SP
“It was this staging that conclusively restored the work to the repertory when directed with such utter conviction in Alix Stone's and Colin Graham's evocative sets, and Stone's proud costumes. Many fine singers graced the title-part over the years. Sarah Walker is among the foremost of them. Barstow is, of course, unforgettable, but Walker's portrayal stands up to the comparison and, though a mezzo, she has no trouble with high-line passages.
At the time ENO still boasted fine ensembles.
Every other member of the cast surpasses its Opera North counterpart: Rolfe Johnson's manly, hot-headed and finely sung Essex, Richard Van Allan's menacing Raleigh, Jean Rigby's moving Frances Essex, Alan Opie's sly Cecil.
Over all presides Mark Elder, projecting a grandly conceived yet subtle account of the whole score, played with acumen by the ENO orchestra. This is an experience of a great company in full flight and should not be missed; it gives the score in its entirety, allowing us to hear what a dramatically varied and superbly crafted piece of work Britten's opera has proved to be.” Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010
“An arresting portrayal, which is supported by a number of outstanding performances, notably Anthony Rolfe Johnson’s ardent and beautifully sung Essex.” Sunday Times
“Walker sings and acts powerfully, with her final signing of Essex's death warrant at once vehement yet regretful. Even the small roles are splendidly taken.” Penguin Guide, 2010 edition ***
BBC Music Magazine
DVD Choice - December 2006
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Masters of the Lute
“This is Matthew Wadsworth’s finest release to date … a gem of an album, which exudes intelligence, sensitivity and sheer class … A richly painted recital that really shouldn’t be missed.” Gramophone Magazine, December 2006
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Lilburn - Orchestral Works
“Once again, I’m impressed by the ardour and sheen displayed by the NZSO, to say nothing of James Judd’s elegant and purposeful direction. The engineering is beguilingly warm, rich and truthful.” Gramophone
“An unpretentious but original voice, natural lyricism, a language that savours of fresh air, exhilarating heights and awe-inspiring lonely spaces - it's an appealing recipe, and the New Zealand Orchestra and James Judd bring if off with ripe understanding and audible affection.” BBC Music Magazine, November 2006 *****
“The ardour and sheen displayed by the NZSO, to say nothing of James Judd's elegant and purposeful direction, is deeply impressive. The engineering is beguilingly warm, rich and truthful.
Certainly, readers with a fondness for, say, Sibelius, Barber or Vaughan Williams should find plenty to savour.
Both the captivating 1940 overture Aotearoa (the Maori name for New Zealand) and 1946 tone-poem A Song of Islands pave the way for the first two symphonies (if you like what you hear, make haste to the gloriously lyrical and bighearted Second). The other stand-out item is ABirthday Offering. Written in 1956 for the 10th anniversary of the NZSO, this score explores more astringent expression and affords each section of the orchestra ample opportunity for display.
The music combines a whiff of Tippett with the open-air manner of Copland – and there are even intriguing pre-echoes of James MacMillan's 'keening' string writing.
Sibelius's kindly presence looms over the tonepoem Forest (an apprentice effort from 1936) and the following year's infinitely more assured Drysdale Overture, whose idyllic beauty reflects the unspoilt North Island landscape in and around the hill farm where Lilburn was raised.
This well-filled disc concludes with the bracing 1939 Festival Overture and Processional Fanfare, a 1961 arrangement for three trumpets and organ of the student song Gaudeamus igitur, which the composer reworked 24 years later for small orchestra. Lovely stuff – and a bargain of the first order.” Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010
BBC Music Magazine
Orchestral Choice - November 2006
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“a Beethoven Ninth of our times” BBC Music Magazine
“Vänskä offers a radical re-think of Beethoven's Choral Symphony, a youthful, brave statement, free of iconic influences. Considered in purely musical terms, his version would better fit the idea of revolution through renewal.
The opening of Vänskä's Choral, though deathly quiet, is chiselled and precise, the first tutti like a fireball from the heavens, much aided by a hugely dynamic recording. Within a mere minute or two, one quality has made its mark with maximum force, namely rhythm, tight as a drum – that, and an astonishing power of projection.
But what is really striking is the muscularity of the playing, its clipped, propulsive phrasing, quite unlike any other modern-instrument version of the Ninth. Suddenly this quirky first movement sounds like tough-grained middleperiod Beethoven, the fugal writing at its centre granitic and purposeful, the music's many calculated repetitions unnervingly obsessive. The contrast with the Bacchanalian Scherzo is more marked than usual, Vänskä again focusing the music's rhythmic profile with unwavering control. The Adagio's quiet opening is breathtaking and although the variations that follow are seamlessly interwoven, the effect is anything but rigid.
Vänskä's finale returns us to the shock and awe of his first moment, with a decisive, tight-lipped opening (the fast tempo held absolutely firm), warmly phrased counterpoint surrounding the 'Ode to Joy' build-up and then, with the unleashing of the voices, an excellent group of soloists and a well drilled chorus who sing as if they really know (and mean) what they're singing.
The tenor's March episode is fairly swift, leading to a razor-sharp fugue. And when the chorus enters, well… In a word, Vänska's finale is full of zeal.” Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010
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Mozart: Piano Concertos Nos. 9 & 23
This release inaugurated a new series with the Northern Sinfonia with the first commercial recording to be made at the spectacular Sage Gateshead, the landmark waterfront venue on Tyneside. In residence at the Sage Gateshead since its opening in 2004, the award-winning Northern Sinfonia’s dynamic approach to programmes, performances and recordings have earned them plaudits aplenty. The poetic pianist Imogen Cooper has a close association with Northern Sinfonia and the Sage Gateshead, having chosen the Steinway piano for the venue which she performs on this live recording.
“In the flood of Mozart recordings, this disc (…) stands out for its clarity and artistry” Sunday Telegraph
“The dialogue between keyboard and orchestra is highly developed and the quality of sound is superb” The Independent on Sunday
“Imogen Cooper's strongly projected, stylistically sensitive performance stands up even alongside such distinguished modern versions as Uchida, Brendel and Schiff. With crystalline articulation and an exhilarating range of colour and dynamics, Cooper never lets you forget that the so-called Jeunehomme (K271) is a concerto of radical extremes, both within and between movements.
In the opening Allegro especially admirable is her vocal lyricism in the 'second subject', her powerfully directed passagework and the impassioned sweep of the wonderful modulating sequences near the start of the recapitulation.
Some may feel she lingers overly in the C minor Andantino, though she always balances expressive rubato with an eloquent feeling for the long line. She conjures a new forlorn bleakness in the quasi-operatic recitatives towards the end, and rightly makes the cadenza the emotional climax of the movement. Despite odd moments of slack ensemble, the Northern Sinfonia play with style and verve.
Cooper is equally responsive to the radiant, wistful and (in the Adagio) elegiac lyricism of K488. Again she illuminates, vividly, affectionately, yet with no hint of sentimentality, the music's shifting moods and colours while maintaining a strong melodic flow. When the main theme of the Adagio returns, after the serenading grace of the brief A major episode (beautifully realised here), she enhances its pathos with delicately expressive embellishments. After this, the airborne finale keeps elegance and animal spirits in ideal balance. Anyone who wants this particular coupling will find Cooper and the Northern Sinfonia (wonderfully tangy clarinets, incidentally, in K488) among the subtlest, liveliest and most probing of Mozartians.” Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010
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