Gramophone Magazine Editor's Choice

September 2007

Editor's Choice

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Brahms - The String Sextets

Brahms - The String Sextets


Brahms:

String Sextet No. 1 in B flat major, Op. 18

String Sextet No. 2 in G major, Op. 36


“Britain’s premier chamber ensemble” (The Times)

“Gorgeous chamber music-making - urgently recommended” Fanfare

“The Nash Ensemble, with a particularly strong line-up of violas and cellos, offer superb new versions, crisp and clear, beautifully coordinated, with plenty of light and shade, and infectious springing of rhythms.
There is real precision and polish of ensemble here that marks the Nash performances out.
The players appear to be listening keenly and responding to one another. The Nash omit exposition repeats in the first movement of each sextet, unlike the older versions. As a sampler try the delectable third movement Scherzo of No 1, which with the Nash Ensemble is beautifully and wittily sprung, one of the gems of Brahms's chamber music.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

“The Brahms String Sextets… make an ideal coupling on disc. The Nash Ensemble, with a particularly strong line-up of violas and cellos, offer superb new versions, crisp and clear, beautifully co-ordinated, with plenty of light and shade, and infectious springing of rhythms.” Gramophone Magazine, September 2007

“A red wine, red-meat disc from the must-have boutique label” The Independent on Sunday

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - September 2007

Onyx - ONYX4019

(CD)

$15.25

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Humperdinck: Hänsel und Gretel

Humperdinck: Hänsel und Gretel

Sung in English (translation by David Pountney)


Rebecca Evans (Gretel), Jennifer Larmore (Hansel), Jane Henschel (The Witch), Rosalind Plowright (Gertrude), Robert Hayward (Peter), Sarah Tynan (Dew Fairy), Diana Montague (Sandman), Sarah Coppen (Cuckoo)

Philharmonia Orchestra & New London Children’s Choir, Sir Charles Mackerras

“It was Rebecca Evans’s Gretel, who took the honours. Spinning out radiant lines of delicious purity, she made it hard to see how the role could be sung better” The Times

“What distinguishes this version is primarily the vigorous and large-scale conducting of Sir Charles Mackerras.” BBC Music Magazine, August 2007 ****

“All told, this set will clearly stand the test of time as an English version, rivalling even the best of versions in the original German. The exhilaration of the final scene in particular is irresistible, with Mackerras drawing a genuinely Viennese-sounding lilt in the waltz rhythms of the "Witch is dead" duet, the destruction of the Witch's House powerfully conveyed and the revival of the gingerbread children movingly done. ” Gramophone Magazine, September 2007

“When a perfectly serviceable version of Hanseland Gretel in English already exists on CfP, it is generous as well as bold for the Peter Moores Foundation to sponsor this new one. In every way it replaces the old. That was an EMI effort in 1964 using multichannels – the result: unnecessarily close voices and a dim orchestra. On Chandos the recording is clear and beautifully separated yet with an agreeable bloom on voices and instruments.
The Canadian Mario Bernadi, then briefly the Sadler's Wells company's music director, conducts a lively performance but Sir Charles Mackerras is altogether more inspired and imaginative, with pointing and phrasing that readily match Karajan's masterly conducting on the classic mono EMI set.
Though the CfP singers, from the old Sadler's Wells company, are good with clear, firm voices, their 'prunes and prisms' enunciation of words harks back to a pre-war tradition, dating the performance. This time, following the practice at English National Opera, the David Pountney Opera Humperdinck 602 translation is used, fresher and more idiomatic, helping the starry cast of soloists, led by Jennifer Larmore and Rebecca Evans, both superb in the title-roles, nicely contrasted while blending well together.
There is strong casting, too, for the Witch, with Jane Henschel refusing to caricature the role in 'funny-voice' singing; Rosalind Plowright, gravitating down to mature mezzo, as the Mother, and Robert Hayward as the Father, don't guy their characterisations, either; while there are good contrasts between the bright Dew Fairy of Sarah Tynan and the warm Sandman of Diana Montague.
All told, this set will clearly stand the test of time as an English version, rivalling even the best of versions in the original German. The exhilaration of the final scene in particular is irresistible, with Mackerras drawing a genuinely Viennese-sounding lilt in the waltz rhythms of the 'Witch is dead' duet, the destruction of the Witch's House powerfully conveyed and the revival of the gingerbread children movingly done. The fresh young voices of the New London Children's Choir are beautifully caught.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - September 2007

BBC Music Magazine

Opera Choice - August 2007

Chandos - up to 40% off

Chandos Opera in English - CHAN31432

(CD - 2 discs)

Normally: $20.00

Special: $16.00

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Elgar: The Dream of Gerontius

Elgar: The Dream of Gerontius


Elgar:

The Holly and the Ivy

World Premiere recording

Enigma Variations, Op. 36

The Dream of Gerontius, Op. 38


Jane Irwin Mezzo (Soprano), Justin Lavender (Tenor), Peter Rose (Bass)

City Of Birmingham Symphony Chorus, City Of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Sakari Oramo

“Elgar has been a regular and vital part of my musical life in Birmingham, and it has been an honour to share my love of this powerful, affecting music with the orchestra – of which Elgar was himself the first conductor – as well as our magnificent chorus.

The performances that we have given of Gerontius especially – on the work’s centenary, as well as in Helsinki, Amsterdam and Berlin – have been among the biggest highlights of my career to date, and always enthusiastically received by audiences who readily respond to the work’s humanity and spirituality. This year I am delighted to be celebrating the composer’s 150th birthday in Birmingham with special performances of Gerontius, The Apostles and The Kingdom.” SAKARI ORAMO, 2007

“Without exception, all of the choral and orchestral passages here are stirring and superbly placed in the musical drama as a whole. Even the pantomimic Demons' Chorus strikes sparks a-plenty. Peter Rose's 'Proficiscere' is a thriller, and Jane Irwin's Angel has soothing tenderness, even if she doesn't quite match up to Janet Baker's towering musicality.” BBC Music Magazine, August 2007 ***

“In his short time at Birmingham, Sakari Oramo has established himself as a powerful advocate of Elgar's works. Gerontius only confirms his understanding of Elgar's skill, also of the quality of his superb chorus and orchestra. The soloists make a fine trio. I didn't imagine... that Justin Lavender would be such the eloquent Gerontius he turns out to be. His enunciation of the text and his feeling for every word is felt throughout. Jane Irwin, whom I have always thought underrated, here comes into her own as the Angel, warm voice and appealing personality absolutely suited to the part... The Enigma Variations are just as interesting. The gleaming strings and fine wind of the CBSO make the best of Elgar's every-popular work.” Gramophone Magazine, September 2007

“...the most appealing rendition of the Enigma Variations that I have experienced since Sir Adrian Boult was at the far end of an elongated baton... Birmingham's chorus and orchestra have never sounded better; Jane Irwin, Justin Lavender and Peter Rose are immaculate soloists.” Evening Standard

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - September 2007

CBSO - CBSOCD003

(CD - 2 discs)

$18.75

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Verdi: Aida

Verdi: Aida


Nina Stemme (Aida), Luciana d'Intino (Amneris), Salvatore Licitra (Radames), Juan Pons (Amonasro), Matti Salminen (Ramfis) & Günther Groissböck (King)

Zurich Opera Orchestra, Adam Fischer

Stage Director: Nicolas Joël; Sets: Ezio Frigerio; Lighting: Hans-Rudolf Kunz; Choreography: Stefano Giannetti

“Nicolas Joël's… cleverly circumvents the traditional imagery by setting the action at roughly the time of composition (1870-1), in the… context of the scramble for Africa. The exoticism of Aïda is preserved, yet the characters (costumed by Franca Squarciapino) are brought closer to 'home'. It helps that Zurich's excellent cast play their roles with such dramatic and musical conviction, a rare combination in Aïda. Making her debut in the title role, Nina Stemme... gives a beautiful and touching performance.” BBC Music Magazine, August 2007 *****

“At last an Aida on DVD that can hold its head high and surpass its lesser rivals. Last year's production from the Zürich Opera is a traditional one by Nicolas Joël in veteran Ezio Frigerio's wonderfully evocative, highly coloured sets. Stemme offers a deeply considered, expressive and superbly sung Aida, one for whom the work's vocal perils do not seem to exist. Add to that acting that goes to the heart of the matter, and one is left breathless in admiration... Licitra has done nothing better than his Radames here. He and Stemme make their Act 3 duet the highlight it should be.” Gramophone Magazine, September 2007

“This 2006 production from the Zurich Opera is a traditional one by Nicolas Joël in veteran Ezio Frigerio's wonderfully evocative, highly coloured sets. Then Adám Fischer in the pit leads a remarkably strong yet subtle account of the score, which – when played and sung like this – is once more revealed as one of Verdi's greatest masterpieces.
Four of the principals easily surpass their DVD rivals. Stemme offers a deeply considered, expressive and superbly sung Aida, one for whom the work's vocal perils do not seem to exist. Add to that acting that goes to the heart of the matter, and one is left breathless in admiration after so many sopranos not truly fitted to the part. Licitra has done nothing better than his Radames here. At last fulfilling his potential, he sings the role with an open-hearted sincerity and a heroic voice up to the part's exigent demands.
He and Stemme make their Act 3 duet the highlight it should be.
D'Intino, an experienced Amneris, sings her role with intense feeling allied to a mezzo of generous proportions. The demands of her Act 4 scena are fully met, and she storms off to a well earned burst of applause. Stemme and Licitra give the final scene with the utmost sensibility. Salminen remains a force to be reckoned with, but Pons – as Amonasro – no longer is the baritone he once was, although dramatically he is up to the part.
The showpiece close to Act 2 is the one comparative disappointment, not offering the frisson it ought to. And here Andy Sommer's video direction is uncertain, too often dividing the screen into three for no discernible purpose, but he directs the principals with a deal of senstivity.
So this is the DVD Aida we have long awaited.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

GGramophone Magazine

DVD of the Month - September 2007

BBC Music Magazine

DVD Choice - August 2007

DVD Video

Region: 0

Format: NTSC

Bel Air Classiques - BAC022

(DVD Video - 2 discs)

$30.25

Usually despatched in 2 - 3 working days.

Shostakovich & Rachmaninov - Sonatas for Cello & Piano

Shostakovich & Rachmaninov - Sonatas for Cello & Piano


Rachmaninov:

Cello Sonata in G minor, Op. 19

Vocalise, Op. 34 No. 14

Shostakovich:

Cello Sonata in D minor, Op. 40


Boris Andrianov (cello) & Rem Urasin (piano)

“Boris Andrianov is probably one of the most talented cellists of Russia at present.” Daniil Shafran

“These are beautiful performances by two careful and thoughtful artists.” Gramophone Magazine, September 2007

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - September 2007

Quartz - QTZ2053

(CD)

$17.00

(also available to download from $10.00)

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

Schumann, Clara: The Complete Works for Piano Solo

Schumann, Clara: The Complete Works for Piano Solo


4 CDs for 3

“This four-CD album redresses a faulty or at least misunderstood balance. Superbly played and recorded, it prompts a sharp and necessary awareness of the full range of Clara Schumann's gifts. A deeply courageous woman who juggled her roles of wife, mother (to eight children), pianist and composer, she also bore the tragedy of her beloved Robert's collapse into insanity and the added complication of her relationship with Brahms with rare strength and fortitude.
Certainly her Op 1 (composed when she was 11) suggests a startling precocity before her skill deepened over the years into music where outward conventions thinly disguise a highly personal and poetic nature. True, she pays loving tribute to her husband's work, but the listener should not be misled. Theirs was clearly a symbiotic relationship, and composing side by side during the early days of their legendary romance, Schumann both marvelled at and feared her gifts. Indeed, there is evidence to show that Clara felt over-shadowed ('I compose, too,' she asserted as she pushed her compositions under Robert's door) while Robert felt threatenend by his wife's celebrity as a pianist (the Tsar of Russia politely enquired of Clara, 'and is your husband also musical?').
Yet Clara always remained true to her own lights. And even when her veneration for others (to Chopin in the exquisite Nocturne from Op 6), is clear she always maintains her own voice.
There are some strange prophecies (Alkan's Enrhythme molassique, for example, in her Le balletdes revenants from Op 5) as well as a capacity to wear her cap and gown with the best of them (the Op 16 Preludes and Fugues) or play her virtuoso trump cards with aplomb (Op 14 and the Agitato from Op 21). But whether you turn to the chirpy Scherzo from her single Piano Sonata or to the scintillating volante close to the Op 8 Variations you will be brilliantly surprised and subtly challenged. This issue is an invaluable addition to the catalogue.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

“This four-CD album redresses a faulty or at least misunderstood balance. Superbly played and recorded, it prompts a sharp and necessary awareness of the full range of Clara Schumann's gifts. But whether you turn to the chirpy Scherzo from her single Piano Sonata or to the scintillating volante close to the Op 8 Variations you will be brilliantly surprised and subtly challenged.” Gramophone Magazine, September 2007

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - September 2007

Profil Medien - PH07065

(CD - 4 discs)

$31.25

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Berkeley - Symphonies Nos. 1 & 2

Berkeley - Symphonies Nos. 1 & 2


Berkeley, L:

Symphony No. 1

London Philharmonic Orchestra, Norman Del Mar

Symphony No. 2

London Philharmonic Orchestra, Nicholas Braithwaite


GGramophone Magazine

Re-issue of the Month - September 2007

Lyrita - SRCD249

(CD)

$15.50

Usually despatched in 4 - 5 working days.

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