Gramophone Magazine Editor's Choice

June 2007

Editor's Choice

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Wilhelm Furtwängler conducts Strauss & Wagner

Wilhelm Furtwängler conducts Strauss & Wagner


Strauss, R:

Vier letzte Lieder

World Premiere performance

Wagner:

Tristan und Isolde: Prelude & Liebestod

Götterdämmerung: Siegfried's Rhine Journey

Starke Scheite schichtet mir dort 'Brünnhilde's Immolation Scene' (from Götterdämmerung)


“Furtwängler is in incandescent form in the Tristan excerpts, and even more so in the Dawn and Rhine Journey from Act 1 of Götterdämmerung. The music whizzes along with the most virtuoso contributions possible from the recently formed Philharmonia, the horns, headed by Dennis and Aubrey Brain, very much to the fore. Flagstad then sings the Immolation with quite wonderful freshness and conviction... The Tristan Prelude and Liebestod offer a similar frisson. Has the Prelude ever sounded so impassioned and urgent as here? Did Flagstad... ever convey so much tragic passion?” Gramophone Magazine, June 2007

“The world premiere of Four Last Songs in its best transfer ever, plus some previously unissued Wagner from the same concert.” BBC Music Magazine, September 2007 *****

“The urgency and purity of Flagstad's singing in these live recordings, made at the Royal Albert Hall in May 1950, bear witness to her extraordinary qualities, defying age - as indeed Wilhelm Furtwangler does in his radiant conducting” Penguin Guide, 2010 edition */**

“Here's a live recording of the concert in 1950 when Flagstad gave the premiere of Strauss's Four Last Songs, followed by some truly unforgettable Wagner; yet it's the latter that makes the CD so exciting.
Flagstad and Furtwängler had several collaborations in these Wagnerian excerpts, but caught live in very reasonable sound they produce performances that lift one out of one's seat. Furtwängler is in incandescent form in the Tristan excerpts, and even more so in the Dawn and Rhine Journey from Act 1 of Götterdämmerung.
The music whizzes along with the most virtuoso contributions possible from the recently formed Philharmonia, the horns, headed by Dennis and Aubrey Brain, very much to the fore. Flagstad then sings the Immolation with quite wonderful freshness and conviction, and this at the end of a longish programme. The results are to invoke thetingle factor. It is worth mentioning that the pair had just been giving Ring cycles at La Scala and seem entirely at one in their readings.
The Tristan Prelude and Liebestod offer a similar frisson. Has the Prelude ever sounded so impassioned and urgent as here? Did Flagstad, in her numerous recordings of the Liebestod, ever convey so much tragic passion? Probably not, and she is in much better voice than in the complete 1952 set.
The performance of the Strauss, previously available on the 'grey market', is now heard in improved sound; but Flagstad, for all the richness of her singing, gives a fairly generalised interpretation compared with many that were to follow, and the conductor was never the greatest of Straussians. Still, as a historic document this is an important issue. The whole disc, carefully remastered, is a treasure.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

Presto Disc of the Week

19th March 2007

GGramophone Awards 2007

Finalist - Historic Archive

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - June 2007

Testament - SBT1410

(CD)

$14.00

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Pierre de Manchicourt: Missa Cuidez vous que Dieu nous faille

Pierre de Manchicourt: Missa Cuidez vous que Dieu nous faille


Manchicourt:

Missa Cuidez vous que Dieu nous faille

Regina caeli

Osculetur me

Ne reminiscaris, Domine

Magnificat secundi toni

Richafort:

Cuidez vous que Dieu nous faille


The Brabant Ensemble, Stephen Rice

“The centrepiece of the recording, the Guidez vous Mass, in an inspired choice. From the clamorous lines of the opening Kyrie with their spicy harmonic clashes, through the superbly portrayed dramas of the Credo, and into the quieter realms of the Sanctus and Agnus, this choir is never less than energised and sure-footed.” BBC Music Magazine, Proms 2007 ****

“Even in his lifetime, Manchicourt's fame was not what it might have been. There were so many fine composers in the mid-16th-century that it's no easy matter to explain what it is that makes certain composers' music stand out.
Manchicourt's has something of Gombert's concentration of materials, with textures that are just as full but rather brighter; and his considerable contrapuntal ingenuity is often laced with wit (as in the canonic Regina caeli). From the song by Richafort on which he bases his Mass Cuidez vous que Dieu nous faille, Manchicourt has a knack of selecting those moments that can be expanded and developed into largescale passages of considerable rhetorical power.
The small-scale as well as the medium-length motets are also worth hearing.
The sound recording is very fine, though the dominance of the trebles slightly obscures the contrapuntal working of the lower voices. All the same, this is a must-have for anybody interested in Renaissance music, marginal or not.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

“A must-have disc from The Brabant Ensemble … first-rate music stirs this young ensemble to their finest disc yet.” Gramophone Magazine

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - June 2007

Hyperion & Helios - up to 50% off

Hyperion - CDA67604

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Strauss: Vier letzte Lieder, final scenes from Capriccio & Salome

Strauss: Vier letzte Lieder, final scenes from Capriccio & Salome


Strauss, R:

Vier letzte Lieder

Capriccio: Intermezzo (Moonlight Music)

Morgen mittag um elf! (from Capriccio)

Ah! Du wolltest mich nicht deinen Mund küssen lassen (from Salome)

Gerhard Siegel (Herod)


Speaking of Nina’s interpretation of the Four Last Songs, Pappano enthuses: “I trust the warmth of Nina's voice. There are a lot of lighter voices that have recorded the piece but you have to remember that Kirsten Flagstad sang the premiere and it's that kind of ample voice with warmth and body - Nina's voice - that I think is too rarely heard in this repertoire.”

“Pappano and his orchestra (what solo playing!), while never hurrying, keep the forward pace of an attentive Lied accompanist - emotional points are made without milking, matching the cool beauty of the soloist's timbre. Stemme has vocal height and weight in equal measure and (again) really uses her text.” Gramophone Magazine, June 2007

“…Antonio Pappano never gets to record more than bleeding chunks of the Strauss operas… Yet nothing illustrates better his genius for going straight to the theatrical heart of the matter than the opening blaze of this Salome finale. It's both beautifully textured and keenly energised, and his sense of the drama seems to have rubbed off on Nina Stemme's Salome, poised between anger and nostalgia, and Gerhard Siegel's anxious Herod.” BBC Music Magazine, May 2007 *****

“To borrow a phrase from Richard Osborne, mighty tents are already pitched on these fields – for the Four Last Songs Schwarzkopf/Szell, Della Casa/Böhm, Norman/Masur; for the Salome finale Krauss/Cebotari, Welitsch/ Reiner and so on. But the conductor who has already got onto record a newly thoughtthrough Bohème, a Tosca that can hold its own with de Sabata's, and a modern Tristan with Domingo need fear no competition. All the hounds of hell are let loose by the ROH's percussion section to launch a wild, but always intricately shaped and detailed, account of young Princess Salome's sickly Liebestod.
Being already a searching, grown-up Isolde, Stemme, like her 1950s forerunners, now really manages to be a teenage Isolde too, by turns sweet, spooky and growing up.
The discs's running order is cunning and effective, and both conductor and soprano are in command of the switch to Madeleine's musicor- words dilemma. In Capriccio's Moonlight Interlude, as in the Songs, Pappano achieves richness without overweighting; his rubato lingers rather than indulges (like… but let's not compare). Stemme is a more torn and dramatic Countess than, say, Janowitz, Schwarzkopf or Della Casa; this performance harks back to Clemens Krauss and Viorica Ursuleac, emotion shaping the (fine) text, rather than vice-versa.
As if to create a valedictory survey of Strauss, the soprano voice and the orchestra, the start of 'Frühling' aptly seconds the Countess's mood.
Michael Tanner's note for the new remastering of Flagstad's creator's performance (see above) remarks how tempi in this work have got slower over the past 50 years. Pappano and his orchestra (what solo playing!), while never hurrying, keep the forward pace of an attentive Lied accompanist – emotional points are made without milking, matching the cool beauty of the soloist's timbre. Stemme has vocal height and weight in equal measure and (again) really uses her text. Finally, the record is produced and engineered with sensitivity to the layout of Strauss's instrumental and vocal textures.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

Presto Disc of the Week

19th March 2007

GGramophone Awards 2007

Finalist - Recital

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - June 2007

Warner Classics - 3787972

(CD)

$13.75

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Viola Recital: Maxim Rysanov

Viola Recital: Maxim Rysanov


Brahms:

Sonatensatz (Scherzo from the F.A.E. sonata), WoO 2

(arr. Rysanov)

Bridge:

Pensiero

Allegro appassionato (H82)

Enescu:

Konzertstück for viola & piano

Franck, C:

Violin Sonata in A major

(viola part arr. Rysanov)

Glinka:

Viola Sonata in D minor

Tabakova:

Whispered Lullaby


Maxim Rysanov (viola) & Evelyn Chang (piano)

“My rival has arrived!” Yuri Bashmet on Maxim Rysanov

Maxim Rysanov is re-defining the art of viola playing for a new generation. This Ukrainian-born, London-based artist is, quite simply, one of the world’s finest and most charismatic viola players. “Romantic expression”, says Rysanov, is the thread that unites the half-dozen works on his solo debut disc with Taiwanese pianist Evelyn Chang. Spanning the better part of two centuries, all of the works on this recording stem from a particular romantic – or romanticized – perspective. And if anyone can coax the kaleidoscopic aspects of romance out of the viola it’s Maxim Rysanov, whether in Brahms’ vivacious FAE Sonata, Enescu’s robust Concert Piece, or Glinka’s delicate Sonata. The two movements by Frank Bridge exhibit the composer’s own skill on the instrument, to which Franck’s Sonata lends its romantic ardour perfectly. The disc’s “encore” is an enchanting miniature written for Rysanov by Bulgarian-born, London-based Dobrinka Tabakova.

Recorded at Potton Hall, Suffolk, 7 - 9 August 2006

“…Rysanov makes out an excellent case for taking up the Franck A major Sonata, his arrangement judiciously steering a middle course between the violin and cello versions, but gaining an extra degree of richness of tone in the upper registers. The other items are no less striking. ...Rysanov and Chang achieve wonderfully veiled colours in both the Glinka Sonata and Dobrinka Tabakova's haunting Whispered Lullaby.” BBC Music Magazine, August 2007 *****

“One feels that Maxim Rysanov has a very special relationship with his Guadagnini viola, delighting in bringing out the particular qualities of its different registers - husky lower notes, brilliant high ones which, however, retain weight and intensity. He's well matched by the energy and vitality of Evelyn Chang's playing, strikingly so at the start of the CD (Brahms).” Gramophone Magazine, June 2007

“If you have the initial impression that this is a motley collection of pieces, lacking focus, do think again. For one thing, it makes an effective recital programme, the items setting one another off, leading up to the major work (Franck) and concluding with a perfect encore (Tabakova).
And the playing, in its technical command and imaginative grasp, is outstanding. One feels that Maxim Rysanov has a very special relationship with his Guadagnini viola, delighting in bringing out the particular qualities of its different registers – husky lower notes, brilliant high ones which, however, retain weight and intensity. He's well matched by the energy and vitality of Evelyn Chang's playing, strikingly so at the start of the CD (Brahms). On the following tracks (Glinka), she shows very different qualities; sparkling passagework and elegant lyrical expression, and she's equally convincing with the impressionistic sonorities of the Enescu.
Throughout the disc, the attention is constantly grabbed by powerfully expressive duo playing. Rysanov appears as a true virtuoso in the Enescu and in the second of the Bridge pieces, yet he's able to scale down his performance for the intimate, dreamy Tabakova Lullaby, and in the Glinka he brings a subtly individual quality to each melodic phrase. And there's a strong sense that Chang and Rysanov really enjoy playing together.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - June 2007

BBC Music Magazine

Chamber Choice - August 2007

Avie - AV2111

(CD)

$15.25

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Dvorak: The King and the Charcoal Burner (Král a Uhlír)

Dvorak: The King and the Charcoal Burner (Král a Uhlír)

Comic Opera in 3 Acts


Dalibor Jenis (King Matyáš), Peter Mikuláš (Matěj), Michelle Breedt (Anna), Lívia Aghová (Liduška), Michal Lehotsky (Jenik), Markus Schäfer (Jindřich)

Prague Chamber Choir, WDR Rundfunkchor Köln & WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln, Gerd Albrecht

“Dvorák's delightful The King and the CharcoalBurner was the second opera that he wrote and the first to be staged. In its first form it was abandoned during rehearsal as being too complex and Wagnerian, which led the composer to rewrite the piece completely, simplifying its textures and material. There followed two more versions which together form the basis of this version, recorded at concert performances in Cologne with an excellent cast of young Czech singers under Albrecht, an ever-sympathetic advocate.
The piece vies with Smetana's The BarteredBride in the freshness of its Czech flavours.
This marked the emergence of Dvorák's mature style, benefiting in this instance from his experience as a player in the opera orchestra in Prague. Very attractive it is, if without the sharp memorability of Smetana's most striking numbers. Well balanced sound with voices exceptionally clear, each of them well defined with clear diction.
Lívia Ághová in the soprano role of Liduška, the charcoal burner's daughter, sings with beautiful, pure tone. She is first heard at her spinning- wheel, before the arrival of her lover, Jeník, sung with comparable purity by tenor Michal Lehotsky. The King, strongly sung by baritone Dalibor Jenis, lost in the forest in Act 1, is given shelter by the charcoal burner, Matej – Peter Mikulá in splendid voice. Though the King is attracted to the lovely Liduska, he recognises her genuine love for Jeník, and, after a test he devises for her, gives his blessing to their union amid general rejoicing. The chorus is a key element in the work, reflecting Dvorák's original inspiration prompted by hearing Meistersinger, with the Prague Chamber Choir and the Radio Choir singing with crisp, fresh ensemble.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

“…an opera whose freshness, colour and unfailing lyricism should by rights make it a repertory work outside the Czech Republic as well as in… Lívia Ághová in the soprano role of Liduška, the charcoal burner's daughter, sings with beautiful, pure tone. She is first heard at her spinning-wheel, before the arrival of her lover, Jeník, sung with comparable purity by tenor Michal Lehotsky. The chorus is a key element in the work, reflecting Dvorák's original inspiration prompted by hearing Meistersinger, with the Prague Chamber Choir and the Radio Choir singing with crisp, fresh ensemble.” Gramophone Magazine, June 2007

“Albrecht pays particular attention to the dance rhythms, the nature music and, above all, to the opera's simple tunefulness.” Opera, September 2007

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - June 2007

Orfeo - C678062H

(CD - 2 discs)

$30.25

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