“Yevgeny Sudbin's performance here fairly explodes with imagination, feeling and desire. Here, one feels, is a pianist hungry to test himself intellectually and emotionally as well as technically”
“His stunning virtuosity and the sensitive interaction with the conductor and orchestra really does the talking.”
“To describe 26-year-old Yevgeny Sudbin as music's brightest young star pianist is in a sense to do him a disservice. For he is above all an artist, and here in his eagerly awaited concerto debut on disc he gives us a Tchaikovsky First of spine-tingling brilliance, poetry and vivacity. This is never the Tchaikovsky you have always known, but an arrestingly novel rethink with the concentration on mercurial changes of mood and direction. Here, amazingly, is one of the most familiar of all concertos rekindled in all its first glory, brimming over with zest and shorn of all the clichés that have adhered to it over the years. In the first movement Sudbin's octaves ring out like a giant carillon, while the Andantino's central prestissimo becomes in such extraordinary hands a true firefly scherzo. Not even Cherkassky at his finest possesed a more elfin sense of difference or caprice. And to think that all this and more is accomplished without the lift, or hindrance, of a major competition success. Medtner's massive First Concerto, too, could hardly be played with a more burning clarity and commitment. Medtner's music remains formidably inaccessible, despite displaying the outward trappings of Romantic rhetoric yet Sudbin clearly believes in every note and his playing evinces, as on live occasions, a rare sense of affection. Such poetry is confirmed in his encore, his own transcription of Medtner's song Liebliches Kind! It only remains to add that BIS's balance and sound are of demonstration quality and that the São Paulo SO under John Neschling sound as if influenced by neighbouring Rio's carnival spirit, so infectiously do they respond to their radiant soloist.”
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This disc offers a fascinating collection of works written for the Papal Chapel. Researched and sung by one of the world's leading choirs, The Sixteen and Harry Christophers, this recording includes many world premiere recordings of these rarely heard sacred works. Felice Anerio displays a fluid mastery of the Roman style of composition, and some of his surviving settings are shown to advantage here, in particular his glorious twelve-part setting of Stabat Mater, more ambitious and possibly more beautiful than those by Palestrina and Lassus. Gregorio Allegri is famous for his Miserere (available on CORO as COR16014); this recording contains representative examples of his polyphonic style. Together with settings by the towering figure of Palestrina, all receive warm and vital performances.
“Director Harry Christophers draws controlled performances which highlight the music's extremes of spiritual serenity and visceral energy. As one might expect from this crack choir, there is some seraphic singing and standards of intonation and ensemble are impeccable.” BBC Music Magazine, May 2007 ****
A dramatic collection of solo arias and scenes for tenor drawn for oratorio and opera - some of Handel's most lovely music, brilliantly performed by Mark Padmore and The English Concert, led by Andrew Manze. The concluding duet As steals the morn with soprano Lucy Crowe is an added bonus.
“Tenors are fighter pilots - dashing, heroic, unhappy out of the limelight - and Padmore is an ace among them, soaring through this disc on a velvet voice in various Handelian guises. Semele falls for
his smooth flattery in Where'er you walk', though he decelerates after the intro speed set by The English Consort under Andrew Manze. His blinded Samson is harrowingly persuasive in 'Total Eclipse',
he shows off impressive no-breath acrobatics in Jephtha and dramatises outrageously in the Tameriano extract. The alto Robin Blaze and the soprano Lucy Crow are his top-notch, bit-part crew.” The Times
“Underpinned by Andrew Manze's unobtrusive and warm-hearted English Concert, Mark Padmore uses his extraordinary diction and whispering chamber-like intimacy to remind us that the most exalted tenor arias from Handel's operas and oratorios can achieve true potency out of context. Favourites like 'Where'er you walk' and 'Waft her, angels' appear to grow out of this varied programme without the sense of being lifted for a compilation; Padmore is a master of taste, restraint and unassuming gesture. 'Pastorello d'un povero' is a touching vignette and the soft singing elsewhere contributes to a concentrated and affecting juxtaposition of human vice and virtue in the Tamerlano scenas. As throughout, Padmore saves the greatest emotional impact for the da capos where coloration reaches new heights. Indeed, it is the joy in conveying the emotional core of each situation which marks out this disc. Graphic dramatic effects abound (not least the Sultan's gradual giving up the ghost in 'Figlia mia' with a croaking realism) but this is a disc which celebrates Handel's capacity for incisive human observation, achieved more through reflective means than showpiece coloratura. It's a persuasive and thoughtful approach. Padmore's lowest register can seem a touch insubstantial but this is a small gripe in a disc boasting – as its parting shot – the duet 'As steals the morn', a performance with the fine Lucy Crowe at her most alluring.” Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010
“Handel was one of the first Baroque composers to invest his talents in the tenor voice and here this unique English legacy is recalled. Through his shading, dynamic range and commitment to the text, Padmore seduces the listener.” BBC Music Magazine, May 2008
Solamente Naturali & Bratislava Conservatory Choir, Marek Štryncl
Remarkable Czech singer Iva Bittová is the warm, tender and expressive soloist in an unforgettable hour-long suite on the subject of motherhood composed for female voice, mixed choir and Baroque string orchestra by Slovak composer, Vladimír Godár. A traditional Yiddish folksong, a dramatic setting of the Magnificat, a collection of Slovak lullabies, a cheerful Regina Coeli and James Joyce’s Ecce puer are all set to music of stunning beauty.
“It’s as if Janácek, Górecki and Monteverdi have settled on a universal language. A wonderful listen” BBC Radio 3
“To say that Vladímir Godár is a typical ECM discovery is certainly not to diminish either him or ECM. This Slovak composer uses a vocabulary in the works recorded here that will inevitably recall Górecki, and also at times Pärt and Tavener, though the music's emotional intensity, the particular way in which repetition is used and the use of certain sonorities and chords, relate much more to the Polish composer than the other two, very noticeably in the Stabat mater; aficionados of these composers will certainly enjoy what is recorded here. But though the music may recall them, it does not sound like any of them for any length of time: Godár has his own way of saying what he wants to say, which is, for him, intimately connected with what he calls 'musical archaeology', specifically Slovak culture, musical, literary and religious. Thus there are works that draw upon Slovak translations of the Magnificat and Stabat mater, traditional lullabies, a Latin Regina coeli and, rather oddly, a single poem by James Joyce. The Magnificat is based very simply on the immediately recognisable first tone, for solo voice and dark string underpinning, but is interrupted by massive choral interjections of the word 'Magnificat' at its climax – a simple but effective device. There are conscious references to the Baroque at various points but folk monody – the archetypal lullaby of the mother – is what really holds all this material together. Godár's transparent but strong style is greatly helped in this by the powerfully raw voice of the amazing Iva Bittová, but also by the precision of Solamente Naturali and the Bratislava choir.” Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010
"Brahms was capable - as were all his great predecessors - of writing a melody that was his own property, right down to the smallest inflection, and yet sounded like a folksong. Or, to put it another way, a melody that was a real, genuine folksong - and yet was by Brahms." Wilhelm Furtwängler, 1931
“From Roger Vignoles's first light-filled notes in 'Bei mir sind meine Gedanken', with Bernada Fink's smiling, wide-eyed voice, these performers make it sound as though the ink is still wet on Brahms's manuscripts. The real skill of Fink and Vignoles is to capture that fusion of physical and emotional movement within a song - and to recreate it with real spontaneity.” BBC Music Magazine, March 2007 ****
“'Bei dir sind meine Gedanken', one of Brahms's happiest songs, makes an inviting aperitif. Buoyed by the evanescent shimmer of Roger Vignoles's accompaniment, Bernarda Fink is all confiding eagerness, phrasing deftly and gracefully and showing a natural feeling for Brahmsian rubato. One would expect Fink's warm, luminous mezzo, flecked by darker, deeper tints, to be near ideal for, say, the nostalgia of 'Alte Liebe' or the many songs of elegiac loss and heartbreak, all touchingly done here. But having thought of her as an essentially 'serious' singer, dignified, eloquent, the vivacity and 'face' she brings to 'Bei dir sind meine Gedanken' and other lighter songs is sheer delight. 'Ständchen', here more sunlit than moonlit, is charmingly characterised, with an affectionate caress on the dreaming girl's 'Vergiss nicht mein'. Fink is playfully coquettish without archness in the delicious 'Spanisches Lied', and sings 'Vergebliches Ständchen' with an outgoing boldness and witty touches of timing – and the tender lingering on the penultimate 'Mein Knab' suggests that the boy's luck may soon be about to change. Other singers have brought a more intense yearning to 'Die Mainacht' and found greater mystery amid the slumberous balm of 'Feldeinsamkeit'. But Fink's flowing performances, sensitively shaped and inflected, are never less than satisfying. It is good to be reminded, too, that, for all its melancholy, 'Die Mainacht' is also a song of spring, suffused by warm major-key harmonies, with a hint of excited anticipation at the line 'Wann, o lächelndes Bild'. On the face of it, Fink's lyric mezzo would seem to be on the light side for 'Von ewiger Liebe'. But with Vignoles imaginatively 'orchestrating' the keyboard part, she gives a finely graded, deeply moving performance, vividly contrasting the contained passion of the boy's words with the girl's gentle candour. The glowing climactic avowal of eternal love is truly overwhelming, setting the seal on a Brahms recital of rare distinction.” Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010
“For all the tragic, premature loss last year of Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, Argentinian Bernarda Fink is just one of a golden generation of mezzos vying for the mantle of Janet Baker. One of the most versatile, as at ease in Baroque repertoire as in music from Handel and Mozart to Schumann, Fink's rich, warm voice boasts the perfect blend of colour and clarity for this selection of 31 songs from the almost 200 Brahms wrote. Her musical intelligence combines with the sensitivity of Roger Vignoles to capture the folk-song spirit behind their urbane polish.” The Observer
“Those who cherish earlier versions of Neilsen's masterpiece… will know how deep this music runs and how haunting it is. The young Swedish clarinettist give what I must say is the most searching and gripping performance of all, and reveals qualities of imagination and insight that make you listen with new ears. Kalevi Aho's... 2005 concerto was written for Martin Fröst... It strikes me as one of his finest pieces, immediate in its appeal and full of compelling musical incident and a dazzling virtuosity that Fröst takes effortlessly in his stride.” BBC Music Magazine, July 2007 *****
“Kalevi Aho's Concerto starts arrestingly but without a trace of the attention-seeking that afflicts certain other clarinet concertos of recent times. There is something in Aho's five continuous movements that recalls Nielsen's directness and free-flowing succession of ideas, and the cadenza that forms the second movement even brings momentary echoes of Nielsen's uncompromising skirls and flourishes. But the Finn's sights are set more on the starkly elemental than on the quirkily personal. For Aho the Vivace con brio third movement is the 'centre and culmination', and it is certainly exuberant – dangerous, even – in its restless virtuosity, rather like Strauss's Till Eulenspiegel driven mad by inner demons. After this a sad slow movement brings sober reflection, and an Epilogue concludes the work on a note of mystery. There can have been few equally impressive head-on engagements with the concerto medium in recent years. There are eight or so modern accounts of the Nielsen Clarinet Concerto in the catalogue. Most have fine qualities. Yet for sureness of idiomatic touch none dislodges Ib Erikson's classic 1954 Danish accounts (now available on Dutton Labs). Closer to the mark than any modern rivals is this new issue from Martin Fröst, the clarinettist of the moment for all-round artistry allied to adventurous approach to repertoire. He seems to have Nielsen's irascible masterpiece in his bloodstream, as surely as he has its technical contortions under his fingers. Vänskä ensures that the Lahti players are never fazed by the exposed edges in the accompaniment, and only the very drawn-out final bars come across as slightly self-conscious. Detail for detail, phrase for phrase, this team takes the palm over the old Danish recording, even before considering BIS's immeasurably superior sound quality. Even so, Erikson and Wöldike remain a benchmark for insight into the character of the piece. In sum, a CD of rare distinction.” Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010
The Czech composer Bohuslav Martinu was highly prolific, with over 400 works in many forms to his credit. In this second CD of his piano works, we have three sets of Puppets, written between 1912 and 1924. These and his Film in Miniature of 1925 reflect Martinu's fascination with popular culture.
The two sets of Garden Cycles from 1920 predate the composer's move to Paris. The Fifth Day of the Fifth Moon is dedicated to Hsien-Ming Lee Tcherepnin, the Chinese-born pianist and that composer's wife, while Les Bouginistes is dedicated to his own wife Charlotte - both written in New York in 1948.
Martinu was an enormously prolific composer, who seemed often enough careless of the fate of what he had written. He tended to avoid revision of his work and in consequence the vast quantity of music he wrote is of uneven quality and varying style, although he came, in the 1930s, to make increasing use of Czech thematic material and to be identified with his native country, from which he remained an exile.
“Koukl’s performances…are very warmly recorded but this is a splendid disc despite that. Recommended.” Gramophone Magazine
“…the overall choral sound is wonderfully blended and must rank as one of the top cathedral sounds outside London. Overall, it's nicely shaped, in tune and excitingly projected, aided by Regent's able engineering.” BBC Music Magazine, March 2007 ****
“The Wells Cathedral Choir are in world class form here…. This is immensely inspired writing.... ...David Bednall is announced as an important and individual voice... magnificently captured in this superlative recording.” Gramophone Magazine
“As ever, Coates's music has great craftsmanship as well as good tunes and, lightweight though it is, it lies firmly within the English tradition. Here Boult finds its affinities with Elgar in delicacy of scoring and hints of nostalgia.” Penguin Guide, 2011 edition