Gramophone Magazine Editor's Choice

July 2007

Editor's Choice

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Bach - The Cello Suites

Bach - The Cello Suites


Bach, J S:

Cello Suites Nos. 1-6, BWV1007-1012


Also includes "The Song of the Birds" arranged by Sally Beamish and different versions of the Prelude to the first suite from the manuscripts of Anna Magdalena, Johann Peter Kellner and the collection of Johann Christoph Westphal.

“A completely new and inspiring benchmark for this unique tour de force” BBC Music Magazine, 1st June 2007

“the stuff of legend” The Independent (on Steven Isserlis)

“Isserlis is a passionate musician, but never thoughtless or frivolous, and the delicacy of his responses on this wonderful set sometimes take the breath away. If your soul fails to quiver in the quiet depths of the fifth suite’s sarabande, then you must be a robot in disguise. Yet he’s not on his knees always worshipping: time and again Isserlis asserts the music’s dance roots, whether through his thrusting accents or by sweeping through with a winning lilt … Just listen to Isserlis, Bach and your heart, and the music that never dies” The Times

“Isserlis has done the impossible. He has given the listener something new, and indeed something outstandingly good...He suggests that their expressive journey marks them as “Mystery Suites”, travelling from the nativity...to the Resurrection...Unusual as the decision is, it does work.” Charlotte Gardner, bbc.co.uk, 22nd May 2007

“Isserlis couples scholarly depth with technical wizardry and exuberant passion. Time stands still at the intensely moving Fifth Sarabande. Supreme recordings.” Classic FM Magazine, July 2011

“…this… the most wonderful cello-playing, surely among the most consistently beautiful to have been heard in this demanding music, as well as the most musically alert and vivid. …few will fail to be charmed by Isserlis's sweetly singing tone, his perfectly voiced chords and superb control of articulation and dynamic - the way the final chord of the First Prélude dies away is spellbinding.” Gramophone Magazine, July 2007

“Steven Isserlis clearly venerates Casals as an important figure in the suites' history, even paying touching homage to him by appending a performance of a Catalan folksong. Like Casals, Isserlis bided his time before committing them to disc, and he has looked for interpretative guidance to extra-musical ideas.
Isserlis proposes a detailed concept. For him the Suites suggest a meditative cycle on the life of Christ, rather like Biber's Mystery Sonatas.
He points out that this is 'a personal feeling, not a theory', but it has to be said that once you know that he is thinking of the Agony in the Garden during the darkly questioning Second Suite (the five stark chords towards the end of the Prélude representing the wounds of Christ), the Crucifixion in the wearily troubled Fifth or the Resurrection in the joyous Sixth, it adds immense power and interest to his performances.
But then, this is also the most wonderful celloplaying, surely among the most consistently beautiful to have been heard in this demanding music, as well as the most musically alert and vivid. Not everyone will like the brisk tempi (though the Allemandes, for instance, gain in architectural coherence), but few will fail to be charmed by Isserlis's sweetly singing tone, his perfectly voiced chords and superb control of articulation and dynamic – the way the final chord of the First Prélude dies away is spellbinding.
There are so many other delights: the subtle comings and goings of the Third Prélude, the nobly poised Fifth Allemande, the swaggering climax that is the Sixth Gigue – to name but a few. Suffice to say that Isserlis's Bach is a major entrant into an already highly distinguished field, and a disc many will want to return to again and again.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

GGramophone Awards 2007

Best of Category - Instrumental

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - July 2007

CD Review

Critics Disc of the Year - December 2007

BBC Music Magazine

Disc of the month - June 2007

BBC Music Magazine Awards 2008

Instrumental Finalist

Hyperion & Helios - up to 50% off

Hyperion - CDA67541/2

(CD - 2 discs)

Normally: $29.50

Special: $23.30

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Rossini: L'Italiana in Algeri

Rossini: L'Italiana in Algeri

Staged and Directed by Jean-Pierre Ponnelle


Marilyn Horne (Isabella), Paolo Montarsolo (Mustafa), Douglas Ahlstedt (Lindoro), Allan Monk (Taddeo), Myra Merritt (Elvira), Diane Kesling (Zulma), Spiro Malas (Haly)

The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus, James Levine

From the Metropolitan Opera in January 1986

“Sparkily conducted by James Levine, Ponnelle's 1986 Met production goes for broad comedy rather than subtlety, but Marilyn Horne knows exactly how to sing Isabella, and receives strong buffo support from Paolo Montarsolo.” BBC Music Magazine, May 2007 ****

“…the staging is, for the most part, imaginative and stylish, even at times rather beautiful. …Marilyn Horne's… glowing enjoyment is a great life-enhancer throughout, and her voice, if a little less full-bodied than of old on top, is still rich, flexible and utterly individual. Levine conducts with good-humoured firmness, and the orchestra play as though Rossini is their number-one composer.” Gramophone Magazine, July 2007

“Horne is the great star focus...She is predictably brilliant in the coloratura passages, with her commanding presence not getting in the way of a sense of fun...The production by Jean-Pierre Ponnelle is brightly attractive, and the direction is at the service of the performance. Levine conducts with characteristic energy.” Penguin Guide, 2011 edition

“This rumbustious, sparkling production of Rossini's 'Italian Girl' by Jean-Pierre Ponnelle has to be one of the very best DVDs from the Metropolitan Opera during the 1980s: Marilyn Horne combines statuesque stage-presence with keen comic timing as the feisty Isabella, with Paolo Montarsolo gleefully lecherous as Mustafà. Oh, and the sets are terrific - the shipwreck which brings Isabella & Taddeo to Algiers rightly gets its own round of applause!” Katherine Cooper, Presto Classical, May 2014

GGramophone Magazine

DVD of the Month - July 2007

DVD Video

Region: 0

Format: NTSC

DG - 0734261

(DVD Video)

$23.25

Usually despatched in 2 - 3 working days.

Szymanowski - Violin Concertos Nos. 1 and 2

Szymanowski - Violin Concertos Nos. 1 and 2


Szymanowski:

Violin Concerto No. 1, Op. 35

Violin Concerto No. 2, Op. 61

Nocturne & Tarantella, Op. 28

orch. G. Fitelberg


“Ilya Kaler is a near ideal interpreter of these works and the delightful Nocturne and Tarantella which serve as makeweight. His playing certainly has the requisite passion, but he also has a strong sense of line.” BBC Music Magazine, August 2007 ****

“A wonderfully compelling disc from Ilya Kaler…in the sense that you never want to stop listening to it…as on his other Naxos discs [Ilya Kaler] gives pure, clear readings with flawless intonation and careful use of vibrato…beautifully and idiomatically played.” Gramophone Magazine

“Naxos offers an exceptionally clear recording of these three concertante works by Szymanowski, not just the two violin concertos but an orchestrated version of the Nocturne and Tarantella.
Ilya Kaler, as on his other Naxos discs, gives pure, clear readings with flawless intonation and careful use of vibrato. Having a Polish conductor and orchestra as his accompanists adds to the idiomatic feel of each, with the magical orchestral sounds beautifully conjured up, particularly in No 1, the more radical of the two works.
Kaler is a degree warmer with a shade more vibrato than some interpreters, and the Naxos recording brings out the fantasy of the composer's orchestration, particularly in No 1, with wonderful clarity. In the more openly lyrical Second Concerto, Kaler adopts more flowing speeds with lighter results.
Kaler then plays the relatively brief Nocturneand Tarantella just as sympathetically, with the Tarantella a flamboyant virtuoso vehicle making a splendid climax to an excellent disc. The point which trumps all competition inevitably is that the Naxos issue, beautifully and idiomatically played and brilliantly recorded, comes at such a reasonable price.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - July 2007

Naxos - 8557981

(CD)

$8.75

(also available to download from $7.00)

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

Bartok, Hindemith: String Quartets

Bartok, Hindemith: String Quartets


Bartók:

String Quartet No. 5, Sz 102

Hindemith:

String Quartet No. 4, Op. 22 (1921) (previously No. 3)


“This is a fascination CD. With the Zehetmairs you're rarely aware of bar-lines, more a constant flow of ideas, a compelling journey with a stated destination but with little need of pedantic signposting en route. You sense that the written notes have been fully absorbed and that the playing has become, in a sense, pure instinct.” Gramophone Magazine, July 2007

“The Bartók No. 5… is almost hysterically passionate, a brilliant and exciting performance that grips from first bar to last.” BBC Music Magazine, July 2007 *****

“A few seconds into the first movement of this extraordinary version of the Fifth Quartet check whether the dynamics are being played as written – many aren't. The Zehetmairs career around the notes like bikers on a zig-zag course, tracing arches at speed with what sounds like the least effort. At the fervid build-up nearly three minutes in they lunge at the music fortissimo though for the starkly syncopated passage a few seconds later their legato handling of the viola/ cello lines tends to soften the argument's impact.
It'll take some getting used to, but persevere.
There's savagery, too – for example where Bartók asks the leader to play ff stridente and Zehetmair all but saws through his fiddle.
Don't expect either a comfortable or a familiar ride. The two symmetrically placed slow movements embrace vivid, often rough-hewn textures, from a quiet chalky treble to fierce full chords. Perhaps the most satisfying movements are the Scherzo alla bulgarese and the finale: both suggest an element of rustic dance, the finale's quieter music sounding eerily effective, especially at speed.
Hindemith's somewhat drier Fourth Quartet (1921) predates Bartók's Fifth by some 13 years.
Like the Bartók it is cast in five rather than the usual four movements, the first opening to a slow, shadowy fugato which soon flares to nearrage.
Both here and in the ferocious Scherzo the Zehetmair Quartet capture the music's radical spirit, much as they do for the equivocal, gently marching slow movement.
This is a fascinating CD. With the Zehetmairs you're rarely aware of bar-lines, more a constant flow of ideas, a compelling journey with a stated destination but with little need of pedantic signposting en route. You sense that the written notes have been fully absorbed and that the playing has become, in a sense, pure instinct.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

GGramophone Awards 2007

Finalist - Chamber

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - July 2007

ECM New Series - 4765779

(CD)

$15.00

(also available to download from $10.00)

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

Nielsen - String Quartets Volume 1

Nielsen - String Quartets Volume 1


Nielsen:

String Quartet No. 1 in G minor, Op. 13 (FS4)

String Quartet No. 4 in F major, Op. 44 (FS36)

String Quintet in G major


Tim Frederiksen (viola)

The Young Danish String Quartet

“…the new Quartet, all in their early twenties, bring a freshness and energy plus a level of sheer accomplishment that I don't ever remember hearing in these works. Far from defensiveness or special pleading, they simply assume that they are playing high quality music and that their job is therefore to give it their all. The results are joyous, effervescent.” Gramophone Magazine, July 2007

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - July 2007

Super Audio CD

Format:

Hybrid Multi-channel

Dacapo - 6220521

(SACD)

$15.00

(also available to download from $10.00)

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

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