Gramophone Magazine Editor's Choice

August 2008

Disc of the Month

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Fiesta

Awards:

Presto Disc of the Week

19th May 2008

Gramophone Awards 2008

Finalist - Orchestral

Gramophone Magazine

Disc of the Month - August 2008

Label:

DG

Catalogue No:

E4777457

Discs:

1

Release date:

19th May 2008

Barcode:

0028947774570

Length:

75 minutes

Medium:

CD (download also available)
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Fiesta


Bernstein:

West Side Story: Mambo

Carreño, I:

Margariteña

Castellanos, E:

Santa Cruz de Pacairigua

Estévez:

Mediodía en el Llano

Ginastera:

Estancia - dance suite, Op. 8a

Márquez:

Danzón No. 2

Revueltas:

Sensemayá

Romero, Aldemaro:

Fuga con Pajarillo from from Suite for Strings No. 1 (Orchestral version)


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Fresh from the triumph of their 2007 Prom appearance, this is the album everyone has been waiting for! Gustavo Dudamel and his Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela have stunned audiences worldwide with their explosive Latin-American showpieces; now they bring this repertoire into the recording studio. A unique album: no other conductor or orchestra in the world could deliver a recording like this. Passion and excitement are guaranteed!

Silvestre Revueltas: Sensemayá

Sensemayá

Inocente Carreno: Margaritena

Margaritena

Antonio Estevéz: Mediodia en el Llano

Mediodia en el Llano

Arturo Márquez: Danzón No.2

Danzón No.2

Aldemaro Romero: Suite para cuerdas - (version for orchestra)

Fuga con Pajarillo

Alberto Ginastera: Estancia / Danzas del Ballet

1. Las tradbajadores agrícolas

2. Danza del trigo

3. Los peones de hacienda

4. Danza final (Malambo)

Evencio Castellanos: Santa Cruz de Pacairigua (Suite Sinfónica)

Santa Cruz de Pacairigua (Suite Sinfónica)

Leonard Bernstein: "West Side Story" - Symphonic Dances

4. Mambo

Sunday Times

22nd June 2008

***

“A disc devoted to works by Venezuelan, Mexican and Argentinian composers (along with the Latin American-inspired Mambo from Bernstein’s West Side Story) might seem too much of a good thing, but the spirit of the performances is infectious and the music will appeal to a much wider audience than just concert-goers. The highlight here is the Argentinian composer Alberto Ginastera’s brilliantly orchestrated Dances from the Ballet, Estancia (Ranch), a sort of Latin American response to Copland’s Rodeo. The Bernstein rounds off the “fiesta” in rollicking style. The verve and enthusiasm of these remarkable young musicians more than compensate for some less than inspired scores and rough edges in the playing.”

The Guardian

Andrew Clements

“I am not sure anything quite like Gustavo Dudamel and his extraordinary group of young musicians have ever hit the Proms before. Whatever you have read about the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra can't convey the brilliance and disarming exuberance of their playing”

The Telegraph

5th July 2008

“There is, as expected, plenty of energy on display, from the young musicians as much as from the music itself, but there is also repose and atmosphere. Ultimately, though, it is the festive that wins out. The whole disc...is a celebration of youthful talent.”

BBC Music Magazine

July 2008

****

“One happy consequence of the Bolívar Orchestra's ascendancy is that Latin American repertoire previously known to connoisseurs has gained circulation… the one widely acknowledged masterpiece, Sensemayá by Silvestre Revueltas, which emulates The Rise of Spring in its sound but has its own Mexican character. Dudamel paces it beautifully, slow enough for the energetic strings and forthright brass to have maximum effect as it builds up.”

Gramophone Magazine

August 2008

“As music writers, we often twist ourselves into a pretzel trying to define what makes one interpretation superior to the next, but there's something about this performance that just is. …it's the infectious hardcore Latin spirit that, once sampled, stayed embedded in your imagination.”

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Editor's Choice

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Mozart: Le nozze di Figaro, K492

Mozart: Le nozze di Figaro, K492

Recorded live at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London on 10th, 13th and 17th February 2006.


Erwin Schrott (Figaro), Miah Persson (Susanna), Gerald Finley (Count Almaviva), Dorothea Röschmann (Countess Almaviva), Rinat Shaham (Cherubino), Graciela Araya (Marcellina), Jonathan Veira (Bartolo), Philip Langridge (Bartolo), Jeremy White (Antonio), Ana James (Barbarina), Francis Egerton (Curzio)

The Royal Opera Chorus & The Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Antonio Pappano (conductor) & David McVicar (stage director)

David McVicar’s spellbinding production of Le nozze di Figaro is set in 1830s post-revolution France, where the inexorable unravelling of an old order has produced acute feelings of loss. In the relationship between Finley’s suave, dashingly self-absorbed Count and Röschmann’s passionately dignified Countess, which lies at the tragic heart of the opera, the sexy ease between a feisty Figaro (Erwin Schrott) and a sassy Susanna (Miah Persson) is starkly absent, the tenacious spark between Marcellina (Graciela Araya) and Bartolo (Jonathan Veira) suggesting what might be rekindled. The production is superbly complemented by the beauty of Paule Constable’s lighting and Tanya McCallin’s evocative sets. Antonio Pappano conducts (and accompanies the recitatives) with invigorating wit and emotional depth.

‘This sexy, raunchy, romp of an opera is a triumph. Director David McVicar has searched for the essence of the composer and found it; fun filled, sensitive, romantic and serious by turns, all reflected in this production.This is a 'Must See' opera! …You'll regret it if you don't!’ Musical Opinion

PICTURE FORMAT: 16:9
LENGTH: 184 Mins
SOUND: DTS SURROUND 5.0 / LPCM STEREO
SUBTITLES: EN/FR/DE/ES/IT

“Here is a Figaro to put with the 1973 Glyndebourne production placed among the top five operatic DVDs. Figaro and Susanna are very much the centre here, and we like them not only because they sing and act well but because they are sympathetic in a modern way. Dorothea Röschmann's Countess is an unusually active, passionate woman... The Count's in an unenviable role... Finley goes grim-faced from one defeat to another, singing like a true aristocrat all the way.” Gramophone Magazine, August 2008

“…so accomplished a cast, in which Gerald Finley's Count, Miah Persson's Susanna and Rinat Shaham's Cherubino stand out as ideal.” BBC Music Magazine, June 2008 ****

“Schrott is a lively, resourceful and above all very good-looking Figaro, but the delightful Susanna (Miah Persson), charmingly dressed, is his match...The dignified Countess (Dorothea Roschmann)... is appealingly spirited...The sets are appealing and the action moves forward with a swing.” Penguin Guide, 2011 edition

“There's so much to love about David McVicar's Royal Opera House Figaro, set in pre-revolutionary France and filmed in 2006 with Antonio Pappano at the helm: the relationship between Gerald Finley and Dorothea Röschmann's Count and Countess shocks with its volatility, yet Erwin Schrott's sensual, rebellious Figaro, Miah Persson's cool, sparky Susanna, and Rinat Shaham's gawky Cherubino are all treasurable.” Presto Classical, December 2014

GGramophone Awards 2008

Best of Category - DVD

GGramophone Magazine

DVD of the Month - August 2008

Building a Library

First Choice (DVD) - May 2014

DVD Video

Region: 0

Format: NTSC

Opus Arte - OA0990D

(DVD Video)

$35.75

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Beethoven - Complete Music for Cello & Piano

Beethoven - Complete Music for Cello & Piano


Beethoven:

Cello Sonatas Nos. 1-5 (complete)

Variations (12) on "See the conquering hero comes" for Cello and Piano, WoO 45

Variations (12) on "Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen" for Cello and Piano, Op. 66

Variations (7) on "Bei Männern, welche Liebe fühlen", for Cello and Piano, WoO 46


Beaux Arts Trio founder Menahem Pressler and fellow Beaux Arts cellist Antonio Meneses join forces on this special recording of Beethoven’s complete music for cello and piano. The 2-disc set is scheduled for release to coincide with the Beaux Arts Trio’s extensive farewell concert tour. Both artists are consummate chamber musicians and Mr. Meneses considers this recording collaboration to be a “dream come true.” Pressler and Meneses have been performing the complete cycle of sonatas around the world to the delight of audiences and critics alike.

“Menahem Pressler and Antonio Meneses offer us a rare listening privilege, with playing that is at once intimate, conversational, reposeful, intelligent and, above all, simple in its musical intentions.” Gramophone Magazine, August 2008

“…a wonderful testament to the exemplary partnership that has developed between cellist Antonio Menses and pianist Menahem Pressler over the past decade.” BBC Music Magazine, Proms 2008 ****

“These are great, illuminating performances” Fanfare

“Between them, Menahem Pressler and Antonio Meneses offer us a rare listening privilege, with playing that is at once intimate, conversational, reposeful, intelligent and, above all, simple in its musical intentions, which are, or seem to be, to present the music without excessive interpretative intervention. Not that these are in any way bland performances: Pressler may now be a venerable 84 but his wisdom isn't at a high premium, either mentally or physically: both his mind and to a large extent his fingers are still remarkably agile. Maybe the call to arms in the first movement of the Third Sonata, Op 69, sounds less forceful than on some rival versions, but it certainly doesn't drag and the crucial virtue is concentration: throughout this set both players hold the line without letting it flag and although moments of rapt intensity are far too plentiful to catalogue in detail.
The outer movements of both Op 102 sonatas achieve clarity without clatter (some pianists force an excessively hard tone here) but if you fancy a prime sampling of Meneses/Pressler magic, then sample the Conqu'ring Hero Variations, starting with the chorale-like piano variation then picking up the tempo before relaxing again for some slow-breathing dialogue. There's nothing sensational about it, no showing off or theatrical arching of eyebrows, just the joy of hearing two seasoned players getting it absolutely right. A rare privilege, and a credible, gently stated alternative to more forthright sets.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - August 2008

Avie - AV2103

(CD - 2 discs)

$25.25

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Kantate - German Baroque Cantatas

Kantate - German Baroque Cantatas


Albertini:

Sonata IV pour violon et basse continue in C minor

Bach, J C:

Lamento 'Ach daß ich Wassers gnug hätte'

Buxtehude:

Fried- und Freudenreiche Hinfahrth, BuxWV 76

Jubilate Domino, omnis terra, BuxWV 64

Erlebach:

Wer sich dem Himmel übergeben

Legrenzi:

Sonata Quinta a quattro, viole da gamba o come piace aus "La Cetra", 1673

Rovetta:

Ach, Herr, laß deine lieben Engelein

Schütz:

O Jesu, nomen dulce SWV 308

Herzlich lieb hab ich dich, o Herr, SWV 348

Was hast du verwirket SWV 307

Tunder:

Salve mi Jesu


Andreas Scholl (counter tenor)

Concerto di Viole & Basel Consort

The pieces on this recording demonstrate the consummate art with which the German composers reconciled the new ideas imported from Italy at the very beginning of the 17th century (the principle of the basso continuo, accompanied monody, the concertato technique) with local traditions, thereby giving birth to works of a subtle beauty and an almost inexhaustible richness. This stylistic revolution paved the way to the flourishing of great forms like the vocal solo, the spiritual concert, the cantata, etc. cultivated by composers as different as Schütz, Buxtehude, Tunder and Erlebach: in the very heart of Baroque Europe the Germans were taking their place.

“…the union of youthful timbre, sublime instrumental playing and explorative repertoire achieves a rare kind of perfection here. …essential for lovers of Baroque vocal music.” Gramophone Magazine, August 2008

GGramophone Magazine

Re-issue of the Month - August 2008

Harmonia Mundi - HMGold - HMG501651

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$10.75

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Mozart: Le nozze di Figaro, K492

Mozart: Le nozze di Figaro, K492

Recorded live at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London on 10th, 13th and 17th February 2006.


Erwin Schrott (Figaro), Miah Persson (Susanna), Gerald Finley (Count Almaviva), Dorothea Röschmann (Countess Almaviva), Rinat Shaham (Cherubino), Graciela Araya (Marcellina), Jonathan Veira (Bartolo), Philip Langridge (Basilio), Jeremy White (Antonio), Ana James (Barbarina), Francis Egerton (Curzio)

The Royal Opera Chorus & The Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Antonio Pappano (conductor) & David McVicar (stage director)

Note: This Blu-ray Disc (BD) is not compatible with standard DVD players

David McVicar’s spellbinding production of Le nozze di Figaro is set in 1830s post-revolution France, where the inexorable unravelling of an old order has produced acute feelings of loss. In the relationship between Finley’s suave, dashingly self-absorbed Count and Röschmann’s passionately dignified Countess, which lies at the tragic heart of the opera, the sexy ease between a feisty Figaro (Erwin Schrott) and a sassy Susanna (Miah Persson) is starkly absent, the tenacious spark between Marcellina (Graciela Araya) and Bartolo (Jonathan Veira) suggesting what might be rekindled. The production is superbly complemented by the beauty of Paule Constable’s lighting and Tanya McCallin’s evocative sets. Antonio Pappano conducts (and accompanies the recitatives) with invigorating wit and emotional depth.

‘This sexy, raunchy, romp of an opera is a triumph. Director David McVicar has searched for the essence of the composer and found it; fun filled, sensitive, romantic and serious by turns, all reflected in this production.This is a 'Must See' opera! …You'll regret it if you don't!’ Musical Opinion

Bonus material:

The Magic of Mozart: Interviews with Antonio Pappano, David McVicar and principal cast.

Cast gallery and illustrated synopsis.

PICTURE FORMAT: 1080i
LENGTH: 202 Mins
SOUND: 2.0 & 5.0 PCM
SUBTITLES: EN/FR/DE/ES/IT

“Here is a Figaro to put with the 1973 Glyndebourne production placed among the top five operatic DVDs. Figaro and Susanna are very much the centre here, and we like them not only because they sing and act well but because they are sympathetic in a modern way. Dorothea Röschmann's Countess is an unusually active, passionate woman... The Count's in an unenviable role... Finley goes grim-faced from one defeat to another, singing like a true aristocrat all the way” Gramophone Magazine, August 2008

“…so accomplished a cast, in which Gerald Finley's Count, Miah Persson's Susanna and Rinat Shaham's Cherubino stand out as ideal.” BBC Music Magazine, June 2008 ****

“Schrott is a lively, resourceful and above all very good-looking Figaro, but the delightful Susanna (Miah Persson), charmingly dressed, is his match...The dignified Countess (Dorothea Roschmann)... is appealingly spirited...The sets are appealing and the action moves forward with a swing.” Penguin Guide, 2011 edition

“There's so much to love about David McVicar's Royal Opera House Figaro, set in pre-revolutionary France and filmed in 2006 with Antonio Pappano at the helm: the relationship between Gerald Finley and Dorothea Röschmann's Count and Countess shocks with its volatility, yet Erwin Schrott's sensual, rebellious Figaro, Miah Persson's cool, sparky Susanna, and Rinat Shaham's gawky Cherubino are all treasurable.” Presto Classical, December 2014

GGramophone Awards 2008

Best of Category - DVD/Blu-ray

GGramophone Magazine

DVD/Blu-ray of the Month - August 2008

Building a Library

DVD/Blu-ray Choice - May 2014

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Opus Arte - OABD7033D

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Mahler: Symphony No. 1 in D major 'Titan'

Mahler: Symphony No. 1 in D major 'Titan'


It took Mahler over four years to complete his first symphony. The composer conducted the first performance in 1889 and received a hostile reception from press and public alike. It is now a favourite in concert halls around the world. The Bamberg Symphony Orchestra is led by their star conductor, Jonathan Nott, a conductor who is leading the orchestra to new heights. Their performances and recordings receive unprecedented praise wherever they are played.

“…this one of the best recorded accounts we've had since Kubelík and Bernstein… Nott, you feel, has got under Mahler's skin; Gergiev is merely offering an impersonation.” Gramophone Magazine, August 2008

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - August 2008

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Tudor Jonathan Nott Complete Mahler Symphonies - TUDOR7147

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Berlioz: Benvenuto Cellini

Berlioz: Benvenuto Cellini

Libretto in French with English translation. Sung in French


Gregory Kunde (Cellini), Laura Claycomb (Teresa), Darren Jeffery (Balducci), Andrew Kennedy (Francesco), Isabelle Cals (Ascanio), John Relyea (Pope Clement VII), Peter Coleman-Wright (Fieramosca), Jacques Imbrailo (Pompeo), Andrew Foster-Williams, (Bernardino) & Alasdair Elliott (Cabaretier)

London Symphony Chorus & London Symphony Orchestra, Sir Colin Davis

This title will not be issued on standard CD. A high density DSD recording (5.0), live at the Barbican, June 2007 Slimline double case & booklet in slip case with notes in English, French & German.

“In Davis's hands, its [the opera's] originality and imagination are fully vindicated. The cast attack the piece with skill and immense vigour. Gregory Kunde rises to the full stature of Berlioz's thinly disguised self-portrait of the artist as romantic hero. Davis's identification with the score brings out the best in his forces, allowing this neglected work to register as a masterpiece.” The Guardian Concert Review *****

“Compared with The Damnation of Faust, Béatrice et Benedict and The Trojans, Benvenuto Cellini has always been Berlioz's Cinderella opera, a strange mixture of farcical comedy and hymn to the supremacy of art. But Colin Davis vindicates its dramatic qualities magnificently in this recording, despite the fact that it derives from concert performances. Its success is partly down to the vibrant playing of the LSO, but also to the way the cast members seem to interact vocally as if they were on stage. And the cast itself, mainly of younger singers, is very fine indeed, led by the resolute Cellini of Gregory Kunde.” The Telegraph, 3rd May 2008

“Conductor and tenor are the joint heroes of this exhilarating release...The American tenor Gregory Kunde doesn’t have the most immediately appealing timbre, but the high tessitura holds no terrors for him, his sung French is good and, even in his early fifties, he manages to counterfeit the youthful braggadocio of Berlioz’s likeable rapscallion. Davis remains the supreme Berliozian of our day, brilliantly evoking the mercurial wit of the comic repartee, the abandoned gaiety of the Roman carnival and the high drama and suspense of the climactic scene in the foundry, for the casting of Perseus...At LSO prices, this is a steal, and anyone who doesn’t know this fabulous score should snap it up.” Sunday Times, 27th April 2008 ****

“The combination of technology and the conductor's unimpaired élanmakes for glowing textures and shattering climaxes.” BBC Music Magazine, July 2008 ****

“Davis and Co give Berlioz's joyous opera all the love and vitality it deserves. In a score that grows and growls from the bottom up, Davis's Berlioz sound comes into its own, certainly weightier than Nelson or Norrington but always watchful as the melodies and cross-rhythms cascade across the barlines.” Gramophone Magazine, August 2008

“this recording outshines Davis’s version of 40 years ago in sound quality and maturity of interpretation. Berlioz’s flamboyant portrait of the Renaissance goldsmith impresses with its sheer vigour and conviction, thanks to Davis’s inspiration...a bargain.” Financial Times

“Davis is a renowned Berlioz interpreter, and this new recording, taken from live performances with the London Symphony, makes the strongest case for this fascinating work” New York Times

“No conductor today excels Sir Colin Davis in Berlioz’s music and this performance of perhaps his most brilliant opera finds him in sparkling form. The American soprano Laura Claycomb is excellent in the coloratura role of Teresa, dominating the performance with her charm and vivaciousness.” Sunday Telegraph

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - August 2008

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Up to 30% off LSO Live

LSO Live - LSO0623

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Edition Staatskapelle Dresden - Volume 21

Edition Staatskapelle Dresden - Volume 21


Mahler:

Symphony No. 4


Live Recording from the Semperoper Dresden 1999

“'Glorious' and 'sublime' were among the epithets applied to the playing of Dresden's 'Royal Chapel' ensemble when Mahler's Fourth Symphony was first performed in the city in 1908. Both epithets could be applied to the playing on this latter-day realisation under Giuseppe Sinopoli. People obsess about the Berlin and Vienna Philharmonics but under the right leadership the Dresden orchestra, which Sinopoli led from 1992 until his death at the age of 54 nine years later, can surpass either with its flawless ensemble and understated eloquence. There isn't an ugly note or gratuitously unpleasant sound in the Scherzo yet no jot of the music's wit, grace and sinister humour is lost. After which, the playing of the slow movement really is a glimpse of musical heaven on earth, the string playing glowing like old gold.
Sinopoli made a studio recording of the Fourth with the Philharmonia Orchestra in the early 1990s. The Dresden reading is essentially unchanged but its realisation is in a different league. The start may seem unduly brisk but a series of exquisitely shaped transitions take us into calmer waters and a succession of ever more enchanted landscapes where the performance reveals its essentially introspective side. Some might think it too introspective in those espressivo interludes where the pulse marginally hangs fire.
In the finale's calm opening and meditative close Sinopoli takes a very slow tempo indeed, way below the one Mahler himself adopts on his 1905 piano roll. Lorin Maazel takes a similar tempo in his celebrated 1984 recording with the Vienna Philharmonic. He, though, has Kathleen Battle, a brighter-voiced, less lustroussounding soloist than Sinopoli's excellent Juliane Banse. He also guards against somnolence by sharper pointing of the music's barcarolle-like rhythm. Not that straight comparisons are really in order here. Orchestrally, this is archive gold.
It is also a happy reminder of a conductor whose prodigious intellect and idiosyncratic ways could never entirely mask the fact that he was a good man and a wonderful musician.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

“There isn't an ugly note or gratuitously unpleasant sound in the Scherzo yet no jot of the music's wit, grace and sinister humour is lost. After which, the playing of the slow movement really I a glimpse of musical heaven on earth, the string playing glowing like old gold.” Gramophone Magazine, August 2008

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - August 2008

Profil Medien Edition Staatskapelle Dresden - PH07047

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Bach - Cantatas for the Liturgical Year Volume 6

Bach - Cantatas for the Liturgical Year Volume 6


Bach, J S:

Cantata BWV1 'Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern'

Cantata BWV18 'Gleichwie der Regen und Schnee vom Himmel fällt'

Cantata BWV23 'Du wahrer Gott und Davids Sohn'


Siri Thornhill (soprano), Petra Noskaiová (alto), Marcus Ullmann (tenor) & Jan van der Crabben (bass)

La Petite Bande, Sigiswald Kuijken

The Cantatas BWV 18 and BWV 23 were intended for the two last Sundays before Lent, the “Sexagesima” and “Estomihi” Sundays. In these performances Sigiswald Kuijken follows the thesis that the cantatas were written for solo singers, because Bach very often had no choir at his disposal.

“…a profoundly impressive achievement…liberating performances inhabiting a language of elevated perception and intimacy...Rarely can a single-voiced chorus have sounded so warm and integrated...Sigiswald Kuijken is gently ploughing his own furrow in a mini-series with modest forces and intimate conceits. The performances here of Cantatas BWV1, 18 and 23 are extraordinarily refined, coherent and perceptive. This is Bach stripped bare, but rapt.” Gramophone Magazine, August 2008

“The sonority of the early BWV 18 is inspired - initially four violas and continuo, with flutes added a decade later. The dark timbre is lightened by authentic high pitch, in a gloriously enveloping SACD acoustic; the opening concerto-like sinfonia is captivating. Soloists are admirable throughout.” BBC Music Magazine, January 2009 ****

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - August 2008

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Accent Kuijken Bach Cantatas - ACC25306

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Wagner: The Mastersingers

Wagner: The Mastersingers


Wagner:

Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg

Sung in English (translation by Frederick Jameson, with revisions by Norman Feasey and Gordon Kember)


Margaret Curphey (Eva), Alberto Remedios (Walther von Stolzing), Norman Bailey (Hans Sachs), Derek Hammond-Stroud (Sixtus Beckmesser), Ann Robson (Magdalene), Gregory Dempsey (David), Noel Mangin (Pogner), Stafford Dean (Nightwatchman)

Sadlers Wells Chorus & Sadlers Wells Opera Orchestra, Reginald Goodall

Read Presto's complete review of this disc here.

For the first time ever, the legendary centenary production of Wagner's The Mastersingers, conducted by Reginald Goodall, is released as a 4-CD set on Chandos Opera in English.

Broadcast live on the BBC from Sadler's Wells Theatre on 10 February 1968, Goodall conducted a cast of such luminaries as Alberto Remedios, Norman Bailey, Derek Hammond-Stroud, Gregory Dempsey, Margaret Curphey and Ann Robson. Following the live broadcast the recording sadly disappeared into the archives and has since become one of the most talked about ‘lost’ performances. Music-lovers have regularly contacted Chandos requesting its release on Opera in English and it is one that Sir Peter Moores was determined to make happen. It even led to an appeal for individuals’ recordings of the broadcast! This 4-CD set has subsequently been re-mastered from a BBC Radio live broadcast and is released at the price of 3 CDs. The sound quality reflects the fact it is a 1968 ‘live’ recording and some deterioration is evident, although this does not detract from the fantastic performance value. ‘A popular comic opera’, The Mastersingers is an ensemble opera in a sense which Wagner’s other operas are not. Yet despite its comic opera standing, it is in fact a deeply spiritual work. Wagner wrote, ‘it is impossible that you should not have sensed, under the opera’s quaint superficies of popular humour, the profound melancholy, the lament, the cry of distress of poetry in chains, and its reincarnation, its new birth, its irresistible magic power achieving mastery over the common and the base.’ Nicholas Payne writes: “the rise and fall of Goodall’s orchestra is drenched in tears which encompass both supreme joy and unrequited sorrow. Goodall sensed that the generosity of spirit which inhabited Sadler’s Wells and its company in the final years at that theatre would never be recaptured.” Sir Peter Moores comments on this release: “The resounding success of Reginald Goodall's Mastersingers led to his conducting an 'English' Ring at the London Coliseum in the 1970s. That Ring started me recording opera in English so I am thrilled that we have been able to add The Mastersingers to our Opera in English catalogue - alongside Goodall's Ring.”

“There might be flaws in this long-awaited CD release of the original performance, but few of them come from Goodall's thrilling grasp of Wagner's late comic opera. Compelling, joyous, often magnificent, Goodall displays a great sense for overall dramatic architecture and a spaciousness that highlights detail.” The Times, 5th July 2008 ****

“The performance is greater than the sum of its parts: individual roles may have been more lustrously sung on disc, but it is hard to think of a more satisfying team than Norman Bailey (a noble Sachs, earthy and poetic), Alberto Remedios (a liquidly sung, golden-toned Stolzing), Derek Hammond-Stroud, (a pernickety, word-perfect Beckmesser), Margaret Curphey (occasionally lemony-tinted, but radiant on the top line of the quintet) and Gregory Dempsey (a David who really sings the notes). Goodall’s towering achievement shines through the sometimes boxy recording.” Sunday Times, 13th July 2008 ****

“Avid Wagnerites have been clamouring for the commercial release of these two performances for ages. Broadcast on Radio 3, from Sadler's Wells and the Royal Opera House respectively, they have cult status among postwar British Wagner interpretations, and each also represents a significant moment in its company's history. Reginald Goodall's English-language performances in 1968 marked the start of a 15-year-long Wagnerian golden age, as far as Sadler's Wells (later English National) Opera was concerned. Bernard Haitink's Meistersinger - the high point of his tenure as Covent Garden's music director - was broadcast in July 1997, on the eve of the house's closure for refurbishment. Stylistically, they are antithetical. Goodall's at times overwhelming performance is at once extremely slow and phenomenally intense, while Haitink is swift, mercurial and altogether more relaxed. Goodall never lets us forget that Meistersinger is a parable of poetic creativity, and there is an overriding sense of metaphysical resonance and elation in his interpretation. Haitink, meanwhile steers us through an urbane social comedy, before anchoring the work in the final scene, when Walther (Gösta Winbergh) gives the song's first performance, as Sachs (John Tomlinson) gazes contentedly on. Goodall has marginally the more consistent cast, the product of his determination to train an ensemble of house singers. Bailey's nobly introverted Sachs has claim to being the most beautiful on disc, and few Walthers have ever matched Remedios in poetic fervour. Winbergh, very much his equal in vocal ease and beauty, is more impulsive and also, tellingly, more obviously aristocratic. Goodall has the better Eva in the ecstatic Margaret Curphey, while Haitink's Nancy Gustafson is having an off night. On the other hand, Thomas Allen's subtly characterised Beckmesser, for Haitink, is preferable to Derek Hammond-Stroud's snarling caricature on the Goodall set.” The Guardian, 11th July 2008 ****

“Goodall's understanding of what every beat of this core means, and his successful communication of that to his personally trained cast, is a thing of wonder. Climaxes are immense; timers may tell us it's slow, but the pulse never flags.” Gramophone Magazine, August 2008

“It's eminently listenable, capturing the musical and spiritual glow of Goodall's orchestra and voices, masterfully embodying the comedy's entwining pain and laughter. …this is not only something very special, but (for Anglophones) strikingly accessible. Pure gold!” BBC Music Magazine, Proms 2008 *****

“Quite a revelation. The radio recording captures the atmosphere thrillingly. [Bailey] was an outstanding Sachs, firm and focused...Hammond-Stroud is a delightfully characterful Beckmesser, pointing the humour infectiously...It is striking that not one of the singers has even the suspicion of a wobble.” Penguin Guide, 2010 edition ***

“overall what you would probably buy this set for is the conducting of Reginald Goodall, and particularly his slow and expansive reading of the score, for which he was so renowned. What hits you more than anything else is the scale on which he is thinking. He can hold things in reserve, literally for hours, and build a crescendo in a longer and harder way than you’ve ever heard before.” Chris O'Reilly, Presto Classical, 30thJune 2008

Presto Disc of the Week

30th June 2008

GGramophone Awards 2009

Finalist - Historic Archive

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - August 2008

Penguin Guide

Rosette Winner

BBC Music Magazine

Opera Choice - August 2008

Chandos - up to 40% off

Chandos Opera in English - CHAN3148(4)

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Schubert: Die schöne Müllerin, D795

Schubert: Die schöne Müllerin, D795


Christoph Prégardien (tenor) & Michael Gees (piano)

In this new recording the great lyric tenor Christoph Prégardien gives an outstanding performance of Franz Schubert’s immortal song cycle “Die Schöne Müllerin” in a version that incorporates elements of the Diabelli edition of 1830.

“Prégardien brings ever new revelation to the songs, and though his pianist, Michael Gees, plays a modern piano, both vocal and keyboard parts are ornamented in the performing practice of Schubert's time. Prégardien and Gees give time and space for every nuance and rhythmic pulse in the emotional life of the lovelorn miller's experience.” BBC Music Magazine, June 2008 ****

“… intensely moving” Gramophone Magazine

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Editor's Choice - August 2008

Challenge Classics - CC72292

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$16.25

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Thomas, Ambroise: La Cour de Célimène

Thomas, Ambroise: La Cour de Célimène


Laura Claycomb (La Comtesse), Alastair Miles (Le Commandeur de Beaupré), Joan Rodgers (La Baronne), Sébastien Droy (Le Chevalier de Mérac)

Geoffrey Mitchell Choir & Philharmonia Orchestra, Andrew Litton

In recent years there has been increased interest in the works of Ambroise Thomas, particularly in his ambitious setting of Hamlet (1868), which has been revived with success at London’s Covent Garden, the New York Met, Barcelona, Paris and elsewhere. His other major success was Mignon (1866), which had more than 1,200 performances at the Opéra-Comique up to the end of the 19th century. Opera Rara now takes a further important step in the rediscovery of this fascinating figure with a new recording of his 1855 opéra-comique La Cour de Célimène (Célimène’s Court). Set in 1750 in a château near Paris, the opera deals with a young widowed Countess who has no fewer than 14 suitors. The role was written for the legendary coloratura Marie Miolan-Carvalho, who also created roles in four of Gounod’s operas, notably Marguerite in Faust, Juliette in Roméo et Juliette and the title-role in Mireille. Here, the Countess is sung by Laura Claycomb, with Alastair Miles, Joan Rodgers and Sébastien Droy at her side. Given the large cast, it’s not surprising that the work’s ensembles have been picked out by scholars as highlights of a score that is sure to delight lovers of French opera.

The 2CD set comes with a lavishly illustrated book including libretto with an English translation. Richard Langham Smith gives a detailed account of the composer, the opera and its composition.

“La cour de Célimène is an utterly charming work. Within just a few bars, the overture evokes an atmosphere of the ancien régime, and the music remains graceful and lively throughout. There is plenty of listening pleasure here in another well-recorded Opera Rara gem.” BBC Music Magazine, August 2008 ****

“ La Cour de Célimène was introduced at the Opéra Comique in 1855, a time of mass-production of new operas in Paris, and was dropped after 19 performances. It was probably not so robust in tunefulness or dramatic situation as to make its way through in these circumstances. It was also tagged with the old-fashioned characteristic of an ornate vocal style. Presumably, with its courtly setting in the ancien régime it would have appeared to the more serious-minded and left-inclined of Parisians to be reactionary in its nostalgic appeal and trivial in every other respect.
Today the first reaction is likely to be gratitude and delight in the discovery of a score which, if not coming up with 'big' tunes, is unfailingly melodious. We may also be more inclined to credit the comedy with a certain sophistication, the light irony of a raised eyebrow surveying the human scene, as in Così fan tutte. The title, with its implied reference to Molière, possibly adds a suggestion or two, for the countess, the central character here, is like Célimène in Le misantrope representative of the maddeningly beautiful, frivolous and privileged, and here too the world arranges itself to suit its convenience rather than its virtuous principles.
At least if time rejects it yet again it will not be the fault of this performance. Both sopranos manage the florid work with apparent ease, Laura Claycomb soaring aloft gracefully, Joan Rodgers having the additional warmth to suit the Baroness's more thoughtful nature. Alastair Miles enjoys himself in his role of worldly aristocrat with the attributes of a virtuoso and a buffo bass. Sébastien Droy has the right lightness and youth of voice and manner, and, as the only Frenchman, does not show up the efforts of the English in his language. Chorus and orchestra contribute splendidly; Andrew Litton conducts with stylish zest; recorded sound is clear and well balanced.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

“We are in Opera Rara's debt again as they offer another obscure delight… Both sopranos manage the florid work with apparent ease… Alastair Miles enjoys himself in this role of worldly aristocrat… Chorus and orchestra contribute splendidly; Andrew Litton conducts with stylish zest; recorded sound is clear and well balanced.” Gramophone Magazine, August 2008

“Andrew Litton and his cast deliver this high-class froth with verve and lightness of touch. Alastair Miles impresses as the affably cynical Commander, more excited by property than love. Sébastien Droy delivers his lovesong with honeyed elegance, while Laura Claycomb's Countess pirouettes into the stratosphere with easy grace.” The Telegraph, 7th June 2008

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - August 2008

Opera Rara - ORC37

(CD - 2 discs)

$32.00

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Gershwin: Porgy and Bess

Gershwin: Porgy and Bess

Live Recording - Titania Palast, Berlin 21 September 1952.


Leontyne Price (Bess), William Warfield (Porgy), Cab Calloway (Sporting Life), John McCurry (Crown)

Eva Jessye Choir, Rias-Unterhaltungsorchester, Alexander Smallens

As George Gershwin celebrated his thirtieth birthday in 1928, he was at the height of his early maturity. It must have seemed to such a self-confident artist as he that there was nothing he could not achieve if he so wished. However, Gershwin at the age of thirty had not yet written his masterpiece, although he had had ideas for setting an operatic libretto to be fashioned from Du Bose Hayward's novel Porgy for some years, ever since he began reading it one night, unable to sleep, and – gripped by the telling – stayed awake until daybreak before he had finished it. Several factors conspired to delay the realisation of his dream. The musical theatre continued to beckon: in 1929, he wrote two Broadway shows – the first was Show Girl, a somewhat hastily put together vehicle which utilised An American in Paris as a ballet. This admixture did not work too well, and the second show was the revised version of Strike Up The Band, which opened early in January 1930, six months after Show Girl and over two years after the first version.

“…this remarkable Porgy and Bess. It was made during the Berlin run of the famous 1952-3 European tour… of a production by Robert Breen, with an all-black company under the work's original conductor Alexander Smallens. The chorus sings with precision and fervour, and there are characterful performances in the many smaller roles. The young Leontyne Price signs of he future greatness as Bess... William Warfield makes a virile Porgy, and Cab Calloway does a star turn as Sportin' Life. And altogether this recording, refurbished in startlingly immediate mono sound, is both a fascinating document and thoroughly enjoyable in its own right.” BBC Music Magazine, September 2008 ****

“In 1952 the US State Department funded a world tour of Porgy and Bess. The production by Everyman Opera eventually visited cities across the American continent, north and south, and gave the British, French, Italian, German, Czech and Russian premieres of Gershwin's opera. The tour inspired two famous memoirs, Truman Capote's The Muses are Heard and Maya Angelou's Singin' and Swingin' and GettingMerry Like Christmas. Both writers pay tribute to the array of talent the company possessed, from the veteran Cab Calloway as Sportin' Life to the then-unknown Leontyne Price as Bess.
Several years later Price and William Warfield recorded a disc of highlights for RCA, in which Price sings not only Bess but also Clara and Serena.
Fine though that selection is, it has none of the immediacy and energy of this broadcast from Berlin in September 1952. By then the company had lived with the work for a year.
There is a degree of improvisation from the chorus, the famous Eva Jessye Choir, as they enter into the spirit of the drama. Although it is a fairly complete version of the score, there are some cuts (for instance the Buzzard song), but where authentic performance practice is concerned this wins over every other recording.
William Warfield's Porgy is a noble achievement: as Angelou described him, 'he dragged the audience into his despair… his resonant voice straddled the music as he rode it'. Price's voice is at its youthful best – this is one of the earliest examples of her art on disc. In 'What you want wid Bess?' and 'I wants to stay here' she proves her star quality as well as her emotional commitment.
Helen Colbert as Clara opens the proceedings with a lush 'Summertime' and Helen Thigpen rings the Berlin rafters with 'My man's gone now'.
John McCurry is a fierce Crown, as Capote noted, 'high and heavy and somewhat forbidding'.
In those crucial cameos, Helen Dowdy hollers the Strawberry Woman's cry, and Ray Yates is the irresistible Crab Man (both created the roles). Cab Calloway's insinuating manner is just as effective in 'It ain't necessarily so' as it had been decades earlier in 'Kicking the Gong Around'. Some of the soloists are uncredited – who is the feisty Maria? The sound is clear, well defined; the recording favours the voices, but Alexander Smallens, who conducted the first performance in 1935, somehow persuades some really hot playing from the RIAS Light Orchestra. No one who admires Gershwin's work should ignore this unique document.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

“William Warfield's Porgy is a noble achievement… Price's voice is at its youthful best… No one who admires Gershwin's work should ignore this unique document. As Angelou put it: "Even the chorus performed with such verve that a viewer could easily believe each singer was competing for a leading part."” Gramophone Magazine, August 2008

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - August 2008

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Guild Historical - GHCD2313/14

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