Gramophone Magazine Editor's Choice

February 2009

Disc of the Month

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Holst: Orchestral Works Volume 1

Awards:

Gramophone Magazine

Disc of the Month - February 2009

Label:

Chandos

Catalogue No:

CHSA5069
(CHSA 5069)

Discs:

1

Release date:

5th Jan 2009

Barcode:

0095115506929

Length:

67 minutes

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Holst: Orchestral Works Volume 1


Holst:

The Morning of the Year, Op. 45 No. 2

The Lure

The Golden Goose, Op. 45 No. 1

The Perfect Fool, Op. 39/H 150: Ballet Music


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The first disc of what was projected to be a cycle, cut tragically short by the recent death of Richard Hickox, one of the foremost exponents of British music.

The Planets is at the heart of the English repertoire, yet much of Holst’s orchestral output is unjustly neglected. This series will demonstrate that Holst was a composer of great inventiveness. Volume 1 offers three rarely recorded works, the ballets The Lure (its first time to CD), The Golden Goose and The Morning of the Year, alongside the more familiar Ballet from the one-act opera The Perfect Fool, long recognised as one of Holst’s most successful small-scale works.

The Golden Goose and The Morning of the Year are known as ‘choral ballets’. The Golden Goose was composed for Morley College, where Holst had been Director of Music since 1907, and was intended for amateurs. The ballet is based on the Grimms’ fairy tale of the Princess who had never been able to laugh. The Morning of the Year was the first work to be commissioned by the BBC Music Department, and so is an altogether more serious affair and dedicated to the English Folk Dance Society. This is one of Holst’s most impressive fusions of folk music with his own style, and has no need of the stage to make its full impact.

The Lure shares some of the same origins with the Perfect Fool ballet. The music was written in 1918 as incidental music for a play called The Sneezing Charm by Clifford Bax but at the time it was performed neither as a ballet nor as an orchestral piece. Frustrated by the lack of performance, Holst eventually withdrew the work from his list of compositions. Based on a Northumbrian folk tune, it is lively and powerful, and typical of the composer.

Holst had no desire to be predictable and if he has sometimes seemed to be eclipsed by his more gifted contemporaries he remains one of the most original and innovative musicians of the past century. This recorded survey is sure to shine new light on his neglected works and introduce a new audience to his orchestral music.

Gustav Holst: The Perfect Fool, Op. 39

Andante

Dance of Spirits of Earth: Moderato - Andante

Dance of Spirits of Water: Allegro

Dance of Spirits of Fire: Allegro moderato - Andante

Gustav Holst: The Golden Goose, Op. 45, No. 1

Sound of drum and trumpets play

The Mummers' Play

The Human Organ

Jack creeps up, unseen by court

Dance of the three girls

The Goose Dance

Jack and Princess embrace

Gustav Holst: The Lure

The Lure

Gustav Holst: The Morning of the Year, Op. 45, No. 2

"I am that which men did make"

Dance of Headman and Hobby-horse

Dance of Youths

Dance of Maidens

Mating Dance

Dance of the Youngest Couple

Gramophone Magazine

February 2009

“Holst's distinctive sound is carefully manicured in this recording; the rapid "mercurial" passages of string-and wind-writing of The Perfect Fool are delivered with exemplary crispness and vitality…”

BBC Music Magazine

February 2009

****

“The only other recording of these ballets [The Golden Goose, The Morning of the Year] apart from ones of Imogen Holst's collations - is Hilary Davan Wetton's for Hyperion (1995), coupled with the much earlier and less inspiring choral ballard King Estmere. Hickos makes much the better case for them, with more spacious and lively conducting, fine playing and a more focused and animated chorus.”

Gramophone Classical Music Guide

2010

“Though our modern age continues to extol ThePlanets as most archetypal of its composer, this recording of music written and completed during the 1920s serves only to reiterate that Holst's musical purview was much broader, and while he never enjoyed recognition for his ballet music (with the exception perhaps of The Perfect Fool as an orchestral suite), his originality rarely faltered.
All the works featured here – a 'must' for all Holst fans – reveal how he built steadily on the experimental paradigms of The Planets with an orchestral technique second-to-none, 'naked' (as Vaughan Williams once described) in its exposed, gossamer textures.
Holst's distinctive sound is carefully manicured in this recording; the rapid 'mercurial' passages of string- and wind-writing of The PerfectFool are delivered with exemplary crispness and vitality; the superimposed fourth harmonies of the unfamiliar The Lure, which develop mysterious bitonal 'saturnine' textures, look forward to the composer's unaccompanied choral masterpiece The Evening Watch as well as the desolate landscape of Egdon Heath, while the two choral ballets, The Golden Goose and The Morningof the Year (the former being weaker in quality) ebb and flow between Jovian elation and the more bizarre neo-classicism hinted at in 'Uranus' and the strange modernist textures of the later Choral Fantasia. Hickox certainly brings an electric appeal to these little-known, pointillistic scores as does the more finely tuned sense of ensemble between mystical voices and orchestra.
Perhaps the most compelling item on this disc, however, is The Lure which gives us a 'reworking' of The Perfect Fool but with a different climactic outcome derived from the warmer timbres and harmonies of the Ode to Death.”

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Chopin - Piano Sonatas Nos. 2 & 3

Chopin - Piano Sonatas Nos. 2 & 3


Chopin:

Berceuse in D flat major, Op. 57

Piano Sonata No. 2 in B flat minor, Op. 35 'Marche funèbre'

Nocturne No. 7 in C sharp minor, Op. 27 No. 1

Nocturne No. 8 in D flat major, Op. 27 No. 2

Barcarolle in F sharp major, Op. 60

Piano Sonata No. 3 in B minor, Op. 58


Read Presto's complete review of this disc here.

Recent discs from Marc-André Hamelin have concentrated on music which is obscure, under-recorded or virtually unplayable. However in this latest recording he turns his attention to two mainstays of the Romantic repertoire: Chopin’s Piano Sonatas Nos 2 and 3. The results are simply staggering: playing of matchless brilliance and consummate artistry, stunningly recorded. As a recent critic of Hamelin’s live performance of the B minor sonata remarked, ‘Hamelin starts where most other pianists leave off … such was his control that frequently it seemed as though an extra dimension were being added, the music’s teeming internal life clarified by his ability to voice the inner parts’.

The disc is completed by some of Chopin’s greatest single-movement works; the contrasting two Nocturnes of Op 27, the extraordinarily colouristic Berceuse Op 57 and the monumental Barcarolle in F sharp major. We think this is one of the most authoritative and important Chopin discs to have appeared in recent years—an unmissable release.

“Hamelin builds the Second Sonata… unerringly, producing a poetic and passionate performance that is finally carried off on a spectral wind. Hamelin… opens with an exquisitely textured Berceuse. He finds all the richness of the Barcarollem and responds fully to Chopin's melodic impulse in the two Op. 27 Nocturnes. ...hugely satisfying Chopin recital.” BBC Music Magazine, January 2009 *****

“Hamelin's playing is refreshingly free from the "inverted comma" school of profundity, and he lets the music speak through him most eloquently. …though Hamelin has made many fabulous discs, particularly in reportoire of superhuman virtuosity, this is one of his very finest achievements to date.” Gramophone Magazine, February 2009

“This is a disc that takes you by stealth. Not simply because it opens almost unassumingly, with a finely wrought Berceuse, but because it was only after several listenings that one realises just how good it is. This is Hamelin's second recording of the Second Sonata and it shows how much Hamelin's pianism has developed during the intervening time.
Hamelin's playing is refreshingly free from the 'inverted comma' school of profundity, and he lets the music speak through him most eloquently; he doesn't get carried away with the subtext of the Second's Funeral March, keeping it flowing (with desynchronisation of the hands subtly done) and all the more effective as a result. In the slow movement of the Third he finds time to dream without ever becoming portentous, and is every bit the equal of Nelson Freire, whose Chopin sonatas have rightly won considerable praise. Predictably, Hamelin is wonderful in such things as the Scherzo of the Third and the visceral finale of the Second, though perhaps slower than you might expect in the neurotic Scherzo of No 2. In the finale of the Third he doesn't begin the build-up too soon, as can be a temptation, and even has a skip in his step.
The addition of two Nocturnes and the sublime Barcarolle simply confirm that though Hamelin has made many fabulous discs, particularly in repertoire of superhuman virtuosity, this is one of his very finest achievements to date.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

“Listen to the last movement: this is indeed a fine example of supreme technical skill at the service of musical poetry.” Classic FM Magazine, February 2009 *****

“Because he seems to start from a position of being able to play all the notes without any apparent difficulty, he is able to concentrate on aspects of the music that you rarely get to hear elsewhere. Chopin often hides melodies in the inner parts and while for most pianists it is hard enough to make them heard at all, Hamelin is also able to give them shape and a real sensitivity.” Chris O'Reilly, Presto Classical, 12th January 2009

Presto Disc of the Week

12th January 2009

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - February 2009

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Tchaikovsky & Rachmaninov - Piano Concertos

Tchaikovsky & Rachmaninov - Piano Concertos

Final of the 1958 Tchaikovsky Competition (Previously unpublished)


Kabalevsky:

Rondo in A minor, Op. 59

Rachmaninov:

Piano Concerto No. 3 in D minor, Op. 30

Tchaikovsky:

Piano Concerto No. 1 in B flat minor, Op. 23


1958 was a red-letter year not only in music competition history but in the entire history of performance. In that year the USSR established the first International Tchaikovsky Competition as a showcase for its own imperial talent. Once again the USSR would demonstrate that in the sphere of great romantic piano playing (one extending from Anton Rubinstein to Richter and Gilels) they had no equals. Summoning the finest pianists and jurors they prepared for a foregone victory followed by international acclaim. But neither they nor anyone else could have expected the gauntlet thrown down by a twenty-four-year-old 6’ 4’’ blond Texan pianist called Van Cliburn. Viewed with suspicion, Cliburn’s nationality invited hostility. This was the time of the cold war and the very real possiblity of a nuclear Armageddon as the USSR and America viewed each other across a seemingly unbridgeable chasm. Pre-conceived notions of American, Juilliard-trained pianists were in the air, of a crew-cut school expressed in broken-glass sound. So that Cliburn’s performances, characterised by broad tempi, rare poetic rhapsody and freedom captured in massive and delicate tone, came like a bolt out of the blue. All possible animosity turned to awe and amazement as Cliburn’s outsize audience listened to a pianist ‘more Russian than the Russians’, one who played their own music with a rare emotional warmth and charisma. Suddenly Cliburn, an outsider from alien territory, became their beloved ‘Vanushka’, the stage and dressing-room littered with gifts and flowers. Cliburn arrived in Moscow with three suitcases and left with seventeen. Later, when both jury and audience had recovered, their comments came thick and fast and this Testament release will surely re-ignite not a controversy but a unique triumph and occasion. Sviatoslav Richter, happily oblivious to competition protocol, gave Cliburn a hundred marks, his competitors zero, remarking, ‘he is a pianist, the others are not’. Shostakovich joined in the chorus of praise and Irina Zaritskaya (herself a major prize-winner, taking second place to Maurizio Pollini in the 1960 Chopin Competition in Warsaw) spoke with a special eloquence of Cliburn’s unique quality. “For we Russians his way with Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov in particular was uncanny. Such grandeur, romantic warmth and empathy. He came close to sentimentality, but he never quite crossed the line. His playing had an extraordinary nobility. You can’t even imagine the furore he caused and his playing is still endlessly discussed in Russia today.” Extract from the note © Bryce Morrison, 2008

“…Cliburn gives the performances of his life. No wonder the audience erupts after the first movement of the Tchaikovsky. The allegro vivace assai section of the slow movement is taken at a daring pace, while the final pages are as thrilling as any on disc. ...then Rach Three... the first-movement cadenza... will make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck; the finale's peroration will sweep you away.” Gramophone Magazine, February 2009

“Here, published for the first time, are the performances that sealed the Texan's first prize in the inaugural International Tchaikovsky Piano Competition, earning him a ticker-tape welcome back home and the Soviet bureaucrats red faces.
The strings are acidic, the solo cello sounds like an alto sax, the piano is frequently clunky- toned, the Moscow coughers are out in force and Cliburn has his fair share of fluffs and fudges – but none of this matters. There is a palpable sense of occasion, one in which all concerned sense they are witnessing history in the making as Cliburn gives the performances of his life. No wonder the audience erupts after the first movement of the Tchaikovsky. The allegro vivace assai section of the slow movement is taken at a daring pace, while the final pages are as thrilling as any on disc.
The second item on the programme was the Rondo by Kabalevsky, a pièce imposé written especially for the occasion. On this disc, Testament places it as the final work after the Rachmaninov.
It's hardly a masterpiece but Cliburn dignifies it by treating it like one. And then Rach Three. Despite the sonic imperfections and some scarily uncoordinated moments, this one punches a hardly less emotional impact than Cliburn's astounding RCA recording. The firstmovement cadenza (Cliburn plays the bigger of the two) will make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck; the finale's peroration will sweep you away. Whatever that magical, indefinable gift is, Cliburn had it in 1958, his annus mirabilis.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - February 2009

Testament - SBT1440

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Composers in Person

Composers in Person


Bartók:

No. 2: Allegro giocoso from 14 Bagatelles Op.6/Sz38/BB50

Evening in Transylvania, Ten Easy Pieces for piano No. 5 (Este a székelyeknél), Sz. 39/5, BB 51/5

Medvetánc (Bear Dance) from 10 Easy Pieces Sz39/BB51

Romanian Dance, Sz. 43, BB 56: No. 1 - Allegro vivace

No. 2: Kicsit ázottan… (A bit drunk…) from 3 Burlesques Op.8c/Sz47/BB55

Allegro barbaro, BB 63, Sz. 49

Piano Suite, BB 70, Sz. 62, Op. 14

Staccato (Allegretto mosso), Vol.V, No.124 from Mikrokosmos Sz107/BB105

Ostinato (Vivacissimo), Vol.VI, No.146 from Mikrokosmos Sz107/BB105

5 Hungarian Folksongs, BB 97, Sz. 33

Vilma Medgyaszay (soprano)

8 Hungarian Folksongs, BB 47, Sz. 64

Mária Basilides (contralto) & Ferenc Székelyhid (tenor)

7 Hungarian Folk Tunes

(transcribed 1926, by Joseph Szigeti from 7 pieces from For Children, 1909, for piano, Sz42)

Béla Bartók (piano) & Joseph Szigeti (violin)

Romanian Folk Dances, Sz.56 (arr. Székely for violin & piano)

Béla Bartók (piano) & Joseph Szigeti (violin)

Dohnányi:

Variations on a Nursery Tune, Op. 25

Erno Dohnányi (piano)

London Symphony Orchestra, Lawrence Collingwood

Hindemith:

Sonata for Solo Viola, Op. 25 No. 1

Paul Hindemith (viola)

Scherzo for viola and cello

Paul Hindemith (viola) & Emanuel Feuermann (cello)

Nobilissima Visione

Philharmonia Orchestra, Paul Hindemith

Symphonia serena

Philharmonia Orchestra, Paul Hindemith

String Trio No. 2

Szymon Goldberg (violin), Paul Hindemith (viola) & Emmanuel Feuermann (cello)

Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra

Louis Cahuzac (clarinet)

Philharmonia Orchestra, Paul Hindemith

Horn Concerto

Dennis Brain (horn)

Philharmonia Orchestra, Paul Hindemith

Konzertmusik, Op. 50 for strings & brass

Philharmonia Orchestra, Paul Hindemith

Honegger:

Pastorale d'été

Arthur Honegger

Cello Concerto

Maurice Maréchal (cello)

Orchestre de la Société des Concerts du Conservatoire, Arthur Honneger

Khachaturian:

Masquerade Suite

Philharmonia Orchestra, Aram Khachaturian

Violin Concerto in D minor

David Oistrakh (violin)

Philharmonia Orchestra, Aram Khachaturian

Gayane Suite

Philharmonia Orchestra, Aram Khachaturian

Poulenc:

Trois Mouvements perpétuels

Francis Poulenc (piano)

Trio for piano, oboe and bassoon

Roger Lamorlette (oboe), Gustav Dhérin (bassoon) & Francis Poulenc (piano)

Deux Novelettes

Francis Poulenc (piano)

Nocturne Nos. 1 & 4

Francis Poulenc (piano)

Nocturne No. 2 in A (‘Bal des jeunes filles’)

Francis Poulenc (piano)

15 Improvisations, No. 2 in A flat major

Francis Poulenc (piano)

15 Improvisations, No. 5 in A minor

Francis Poulenc (piano)

15 Improvisations, No. 9 in D

Francis Poulenc (piano)

15 Improvisations, No. 10 in F (‘Éloge des gammes’)

Francis Poulenc (piano)

Aubade

Francis Poulenc (piano)

Walther Straram Concerts Orchestra, Walther Straram


Some composers have left us an extensive catalogue of recorded performances, most notably Edward Elgar, Igor Stravinsky and Benjamin Britten. Others like Olivier Messiaen, Heitor Villa-Lobos and William Walton have left us significant, although limited, editions. All too many, however, have merely left us a mere fraction of their output and it was to bring these recordings to the record-buying public that the EMI Classics series COMPOSERS IN PERSON was planned and researched by Ken Jagger (1945-2007). He did include representative issues for five the above named composers in the series so as to provide a total of 20 releases.

Most composers are found as either conductors or pianists (so sometimes both) although some appear on other instruments – Hindemith as violist as well as conductor and Messiaen, Widor, Vierne and Dupré as organist.

GGramophone Awards 2009

Best of Category - Historic Reissue

GGramophone Magazine

Re-issue of the Month - February 2009

EMI - 2175752

(CD - 22 discs)

$63.75

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Rameau: Castor et Pollux

Rameau: Castor et Pollux

Recorded live at Het Musiektheater, Amsterdam on 21st & 25th January 2008.


Anna Maria Panzarella, Véronique Gens, Finnur Bjarnason, Henk Neven, Judith van Wanroij, Nicolas Testé, Thomas Oliemans & Anders J. Dahlin

Chorus of De Nederlandse Opera & Les Talens Lyriques, Christophe Rousset (conductor) & Pierre Audi (stage director)

Castor et Pollux is arguably Rameau’s finest creation in the tragédie lyrique style. Its libretto, based in mythology, focuses on an unusual theme: the self-sacrificing love between Castor, who is mortal, and his immortal brother, Pollux. When Castor is killed while defending his beloved Télaire from an attempted abduction, Pollux resolves to give up his immortality and take Castor’s place in the Underworld. After passionate debate over who will live and who will die, the brothers are eternally united, transformed into the constellation Gemini. The strikingly luminous sets, depicting a stylized version of the constellation, give this fabulous production, staged by Pierre Audi and conducted by Christophe Rousset, a glorious 21st-century baroque look.

‘To turn almost three hours of obscure French baroque opera into a popular hit is the kind of stunt at which the Netherlands Opera excels. … All the singers are beautiful and polished…Veronique Gens as Phebe manages to rise beyond form and truly breathe life into her character's phrases. Gens's performance is radiant and burnished, full of subtlety and character.' Bloomberg.com

Bonus Documentary: 'To serve this big spectacle…'

PICTURE FORMAT: 16:9
LENGTH: 155 Mins
SOUND: 2.0 LPCM STEREO / 5.1 DTS SURROUND
SUBTITLES: EN/FR/DE/ES/IT/NE

“Christophe Rousset directs a superb ensemble performance with a cleanly voiced choir and an acute ear for Rameau's pungent orchestration. Patrick Kinmoth's set and costumes have an austere, almost sci-fi quality, but they match Pierre Audi's unfussy production with its genuine sense of dramatic engagement.” BBC Music Magazine, January 2009 *****

“This production of Rameau's second great tragédie lyrique has…been recorded at Netherlands Opera in January 2008. Unfussy yet handsomely done, it sits well with the leanly focused nature of the work… finding space for spectacle and dance without forgetting its essential task of telling the story of the twins whose fraternal love excepts no level of self-sacrifice. ...Rameau's brilliantly composed airs, expressive recitatives, infectious dances and sturdy choruses are of untouchable high quality. The good-looking cast includes two French... Véronique Gens, haughty and magnificent as the tormented Phébé who plots jealously against Télaïre, and Nicolas Testé... vigorous and sonorous Jupiter.” Gramophone Magazine, February 2009

“Incredibly, this is the only individual performance of Rameau's great exploration of love and mortality, but it's difficult to imagine it receiving a finer account than it does from this Netherlands Opera team, with Christophe Rousset heading up Les Talens Lyriques and the late Pierre Audi's stripped-down staging radiating austere beauty.” Katherine Cooper, Presto Classical, October 2014

GGramophone Magazine

DVD of the Month - February 2009

DVD Video

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Opus Arte - OA0999D

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Smetana & Tchaikovsky - Piano Trios

Smetana & Tchaikovsky - Piano Trios


Smetana:

Piano Trio in G minor, Op. 15

Tchaikovsky:

Piano Trio in A minor, Op. 50 'In Memory of a Great Artist'


“But what makes this disc especially recommendable is the inclusion of Smetana’s G minor Piano Trio, which the composer himself premiered in 1855. All three movements are in the home key and thematically linked yet are enticingly diverse…..the rondo finale bursts with energy (especially as presented here). All in all a real winner of a disc that can be highly recommended on all counts.” Gramophone Magazine

“This version of the Tchaikovsky measures up extremely well against its competition; moreover it is (like all chamber recordings from this source) very well balanced. Pianist Stefan Mendl is able to dominate yet become a full member of the partnership throughout. The second movement's variations open gently but soon develop the widest range of style, moving through Tchaikovsky's kaleidoscopic mood-changes like quicksilver and often with elegiac lyrical feeling.
But what makes this disc especially recommendable is the inclusion of Smetana's G minor Piano Trio, which the composer himself premiered in 1855. All three movements are in the home key and thematically linked yet are enticingly diverse, the first with strong contrasts of dynamic and tempo, the second a most engaging scherzo (marked non agitato and with slower interludes), while the rondo finale bursts with energy (especially as presented here). All in all a real winner of a disc that can be highly recommended on all counts.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - February 2009

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Purcell: Dido and Aeneas

Purcell: Dido and Aeneas


Sarah Connolly (Dido), Gerald Finley (Aeneas), Lucy Crowe (Belinda), Patricia Bardon (Sorceress), William Purefoy (Spirit), Sarah Tynan (Second Woman), John Mark Ainsley (Sailor), Carys Lane & Rebecca Outram (Witches)

Choir of the Age of Enlightenment & Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Steven Devine and Elizabeth Kenny (directors)

Read Presto's complete review of this disc here.

Chandos’ featured release is a new recording of the first English operatic masterpiece, Purcell’s tragedy Dido and Aeneas. Starring Sarah Connolly, Gerald Finley, with the Orchestra and Choir of the Age of Enlightenment, it is released to commemorate the 350th anniversary of Purcell’s birth.

Directed from the keyboard by Steven Devine and Elizabeth Kenny as in recent concert performances, the ensemble presents the opera in a version that incorporates other dance works by Purcell.

There have been two revolutions in scholarly thinking about Dido and Aeneas and both had serious implications for historically inclined performers, and demand a creative response today. The musicological backdrop to this recording results in a performance closer to the court entertainment of Purcell’s day, in which musical dramas evolved from the English theatre tradition.

Sarah Connolly, the quintessential Dido of the early twenty-first century, has been the driving force behind this recording. She writes of the project, ‘It seems I have known Purcell’s Dido all my life and feel able to express myself in this music like no other… As a character, Dido fascinates me to the point of obsession’.

Connolly has performed with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment on many occasions, including two productions at Glyndebourne – Giulio Cesare and St Matthew Passion – as well as Dido and Aeneas at the Proms, the South Bank Centre and Tetbury Festival. One recent review of Connolly’s Dido had the following to say: ‘It was the sheer depth of emotion Connolly infused in her portrayal of Dido that was truly remarkable. Emotion flowed off the stage from the intensity in her voice and through her actions. Her final aria, one of the most beautiful in English baroque music, brought a tear to the eye in a hall so quiet you could hear a pin drop… a moving portrayal of this tragic heroine’ (MusicalCriticism.com).

This impressive performance by an extraordinary group of musicians makes for a significant addition to the catalogue.

Sarah Connolly and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment will perform Dido and Aeneas at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden in March 2009.

“Here is England's first great opera presented with a truly cohesive sense of theatrical purpose… Sarah Connolly is the driving force from the start… a supremely wide-ranging, tragic and experienced queen… inhabiting the shadows of "Ah! Belinda" with early signs of deplorable fate... the Lament... Connolly lives it with exactly the right blend of pre-conceived nobility and gut-wrenching sadness, simply confirming it as one of the musical high-points of the 17th century.” Gramophone Magazine, February 2009

“This new Dido… enshrines Connolly as one of the most affecting Carthaginian Queens since Janet Baker's account nearly half a century ago. From the outset, Connolly exudes imposing presence, pathos and unassailable dignity; her Act III Lament consummates a deeply-felt empathy with the role (honed not just in Purcell but also mindful of Berlioz's portrait in The Trojans). Gerald Finley's aristocratic Aeneas and Patricia Bardon's gimmick-free yet blood-chilling Sorceress are particularly impressive - though Bardon's sorority of witches sounds more house-trained than maliciously feral, while the playing of the OAE for co-directors Elizabeth Kenny and Stephen Devine is ever-alert and full of flair.” BBC Music Magazine, February 2009 ****

“The great singing comes from Patricia Bardon's lethal Sorceress and Gerald Finley's sincere, subtly anguished Aeneas. The playing, from the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, co-directed by harpsichordist Steven Devine and guitarist Elizabeth Kenny, is exquisite.” The Guardian, 13th February 2009 ***

“A passionate and charismatic venture, the brainchild of Sarah Connolly, the Dido on this disc. Gerald Finley is stunning as a brave and silken-voiced Aeneas, and the continuo powerhouse of Kenny and Devine is awesome.” BBC Music Magazine, June 2009

“Lucy Crowe's Belinda is a splendid foil for Connolly's self-absorption, with her astute and increasingly desperate buoying up. The Sorceress of Patricia Bardon oozes class with an implacable display of vocal authority over cheap cliché, joined by two witches who gossip like a couple of housewives in the launderette. And then there's that single-tracked Aeneas, whom Purcell gives nothing of great moment. Gerald Finley parades the conventional Trojan Prince with generic regret and a smattering of hubris.
The textural lightness of the OAE, for whom a certain emotional reserve ultimately appears all the more powerful, is another feature of this excellent recording, as is the outstandingly deft co-direction of Elizabeth Kenny and Steven Devine.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

“Sarah Connolly as Dido is magnificent; from her opening ''Ah, Belinda'', she presents a queen emotionally removed from her surroundings, a subdued loner, predicting disaster even amidst present happiness...This truly feels like the 'Dido' for the 21st century.” Charlotte Gardner, bbc.co.uk, 28th January 2009

“[Connolly's] Queen is not merely stately and regal...is surprisingly real, utterly human, vulnerable and devastated by her perceived rejection...Finley is an ideal Aeneas...making more of his character than one usually encounters, with virility underscoring his interpretation...It is the disc of the year and should be chosen over its eminent predecessors, if only for Connolly’s majestic, yet all too human Dido.” Opera Britannia, 23rd August 2011 ****

“Connolly's characterization is deeply moving, with fine tonal contrasts in Dido's Lament. Gerald Finley too makes the most of the limited role of Aeneas with highly expressive singing...First-rate recording, finely balanced to an apt scale.” Penguin Guide, 2011 edition

“it is hard to imagine a better Dido than Sarah Connolly. The role suits her voice perfectly, and with her clear diction, tasteful ornamentation and technical precision it is executed perfectly as well. But what comes across even more powerfully than all this is her understanding of the part...The rest of the cast is equally outstanding.” Chris O'Reilly, Presto Classical, 2nd February 2009

Presto Disc of the Week

2nd February 2009

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - February 2009

Chandos - up to 40% off

Chandos Chaconne - CHAN0757

(CD)

Normally: $15.25

Special: $12.96

(also available to download from $10.00)

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Bach, J S: Sonatas for Violin & Harpsichord Nos. 1-6, BWV1014-1019

Bach, J S: Sonatas for Violin & Harpsichord Nos. 1-6, BWV1014-1019


Frank Peter Zimmerman (violin), Enrico Pace

Born in 1965 in Duisburg, Germany, Frank Peter Zimmermann started playing the violin when he was 5 years old, giving his first concert with orchestra at the age of 10.

Frank Peter Zimmermann’s repertoire ranges from baroque to contemporary, and he has premiered several major works, including Brett Dean’s Violin Concerto in 2007. Despite his great versatility however, Zimmermann has always been a constant follower of Johann Sebastian Bach. "I practise Bach every day," the 42-year-old violinist explains. "It is my daily bread, something which will accompany me all my life."

“…this is a genuine duo partnership, characterised as much by Pace's subtle fingerwork and crisp articulation as by Zimmermann's fluid tone and rapt attention to expressive effect. Both players show themselves masters of fine phrasing and of using dynamics to reveal the bigger architectural picture, whether in a concerto-like movement such as the finale of No 3 or in the mysterious accompaniment in search of a tune that is the second movement of No 5. For movingly expressive performances of these great works without anachronistic Romanticisms, these will not be bettered.” Gramophone Magazine, February 2009

“This splendid recording challenges unbending authenticists, arguing a strong case for piano, particularly under the hands of a player so in tune with Baroque style, textures, balance and spirit. …the drooping arabesques and broken chords of the third movement of BWV 1018 against the independent violin double-stopping are heavenly; so too is the wonderfully evocative Largo of BWV 1019, Zimmermann's violin cold and bleak, with barely a hint of vibrato.” BBC Music Magazine, February 2009 *****

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - February 2009

Building a Library

First Choice - March 2013

Sony - 88697112432

(CD - 2 discs)

$14.00

Usually despatched in 3 - 4 working days.

Stojowski: Works for Choir and Orchestra

Stojowski: Works for Choir and Orchestra


Stojowski:

Suite for Orchestra in E Flat Major Op. 9

Le Printemps Cantata for Choir and Orchestra Op. 7

Prayer for Poland Op. 40


Marta Wroblewska (soprano) & Maciej Bogumil Nerkowski (baritone)

The Podlasie Opera and Philharmonic Choir & Orchestra, Marcin Nalecz Niesiolowski

Zygmunt Stojowski was one of Poland’s most outstanding figures in post-romantic music. The first piece heard on the CD is the cantata, Prayer for Poland, op. 40. The cantata holds a unique position among large scale works written during and inspired by the Great War. Suite for Orchestra in E-flat, op. 9, written in 1890-91, is an orchestral gem of late 19th century Polish music. The work not only displays the brilliant compositional skills and talents of an extraordinary young composer, but it also distinguishes Stojowski as a Polish composer. Finally, the last work on this CD, the cantata Le printemps, op. 7, shows the light-hearted side of Stojowski

“The performances of all three pieces have a confidence and conviction that "sells" these forgotten scores in the best possible way.” Gramophone Magazine, February 2009

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - February 2009

Dux - DUX0625

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Bellini: La Sonnambula

Bellini: La Sonnambula

standard edition


Cecilia Bartoli (Amina), Juan Diego Flórez (Elvino), Ildebrando d' Arcangelo (Il Conte Rodolfo), Liliana Nikiteanu (Teresa), Gemma Bertagnolli (Lisa), Peter Kalman (Alessio) & Javier Camarena (Un Notaro)

Orchestra La Scintilla, Alessandro De Marchi

The two leading bel canto super stars of today, Cecilia Bartoli and Juan Diego Flórez join forces for the first time in the most complete and authentic recording of Bellini's La sonnambula - an eagerly awaited moment in the operatic world and a must have item for all Fans of Bartoli and Florez.

This brand new studio recording is the perfect package for Christmas 2008, and is Decca's core classical top priority for the autumn.

Supported by a continued global tour covering Europe, Japan and America, this release finishes off the festival of celebrations for the bicentenary year of Maria Malibran (1808-1836).

It is the first ever recording with a 'mezzo-soprano' in the lead role, and the first ever recording with a period instrument orchestra.

Many of the cadenzas sung by Cecilia Bartoli are those used by the great 19th Century interpreter of the role, Maria Malibran.

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - February 2009

Decca - 4781087

(CD - 2 discs)

$23.50

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