Gramophone Magazine Editor's Choice

February 2010

Editor's Choice

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Prokofiev: Romeo and Juliet, Op. 64

Prokofiev: Romeo and Juliet, Op. 64


Carlos Acosta (Romeo) & Tamara Rojo (Juliet), José Martín (Mercutio) & Thiago Soares (Tybalt)

Royal Ballet Sinfonia, Boris Gruzin

Choreography: Kenneth MacMillan

Cuban Superstar Carlos Acosta dances Romeo in Kenneth Macmillan’s timeless version of the Shakespeare/Prokofiev Classic Ballet ‘Romeo & Juliet.’ In this perennial favourite, Carlos Acosta dances alongside his regular partner, the Spanish ballerina, Tamara Rojo – a celebrated stage partnership which currently has no equal. The drama of the doomed lovers is set against the ravishing sets and costumes designs of Nicholas Georgiadis.

‘Romeo & Juliet’ and ‘Manon’ signal the beginning of a major collaboration with Carlos Acosta and The Royal Ballet, which continued in early 2009 with the filming of ‘La Bayadère’.

“…excellent sound and picture quality. Nicholas Geogiadis's designs, dating from 1965. are still gorgeously redolent of Renaissance Verona, and the big scenes of street life and the Capulet ball are magnificent spectacles. One of today's dream partnerships, Tamara Rojo and Carlos Acosta, prove more than a match for their distinguished predecessors. ...Rojo rises to the fierce dramatic challenges of the last act with electrifying intensity. ...and Prokofiev's score is vigorously conducted by Boris Gruzin.” Gramophone Magazine, February 2010

“As… the star-crossed lovers… the inspirational Carlos Acosta and the facially so expressive Tamara Rojo… galvanising conducted by Gruzin… all flaming testosterone thanks not only to Acosta and his Mercutio, José Martín, but also to the brutal Tybalt of Thiago Soares. Like all the character dancers here, he fills the role with life and energy. The final duel practically flies off the stage, the corps' reaction seems genuine and Elizabeth MacGorian's Lady Capulet makes the mother's-grieving curtain truly hair-raising for once. ...at the Royal Ballet a classic is raised to an unsurpassable level.” BBC Music Magazine, March 2010 *****

GGramophone Magazine

DVD of the Month - February 2010

Building a Library

DVD Choice - February 2010

DVD Video

Region: 0

Format: NTSC

Decca - 0743337

(DVD Video)

$18.25

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Wagner: Der fliegende Holländer

Wagner: Der fliegende Holländer

Live Recording 1955


Ludwig Weber (Daland), Astrid Varnay (Senta), Wolfgang Windgassen (Erik), Elisabeth Schärtel (Mary), Josef Traxel (Der Steuermann) & Hermann Uhde (Der Holländer)

Chorus & Orchestra of the Bayreuth Festival, Hans Knappertsbusch

Hans Knappertsbusch conducted Der fliegende Holländer only once at Bayreuth. Even in retrospect the opening night of the 1955 Festival seems altogether exceptional.This was also the first time that Wagner's early Romantic had been performed in New Bayreuth. In the run-up to the opening night, there had been copious discussions about the work's suitability as a Festival offering, but when the production finally opened, such discussions suddenly seemed otiose, so high were the standards of the performance. In Wolfgang Wagner's production, the cast was dominated by three performers who can stand comparison with any of their successors.The hochdramatisch Swedish-American soprano Astrid Varnay had first made her mark in Bayreuth in 1951, and as the girlish figure of Senta she presented an impressively accomplished portrait, colouring her voice to produce a multi-dimensional character. Listeners may have heard a more youthful timbre in the part, but rarely has the Ballad been sung with such a convincing note of fascination bordering on the obsessive. Rarely can her duet with the Dutchman have built to such an emphatic climax. And rarely can the finale have been so resolute in its expression.Varnay often appeared alongside Hermann Uhde in Bayreuth performances of Lohengrin and Götterdämmerung. As the Dutchman he gives an exemplary performance both vocally and expressively, while coping impeccably with Knappertsbusch's broad tempi and extreme dynamics. As with Knappertsbusch,Wolfgang Windgassen's appearances in Der fliegende Holländer can be counted on the fingers of one hand.The role of Erik is not an especially grateful one and is often undercast, but Windgassen brought to it his incomparable intensity, his performances, as always, remarkable for their unity of words and music. In this way Senta's jilted lover became a genuine antagonist for the Dutchman. As Daland, too, Ludwig Weber brought to his part the right mixture of vocal experience and sufficient reserves for each of his appearances, all of which demand great vocal and dramatic authority.And as Mary, Elisabeth Schärtel invested her various admonitions with all the requisite precision.As the Steersman, finally, Josef Traxel demonstrated such a fresh and bright tenor voice that with hindsight it seems only logical that within a year he should have been promoted to the role of Erik. Although it almost goes without saying, it none the less remains to be mentioned that Wilhelm Pitz's chorus was on top form under Knappertsbusch's direction, which never lost sight of the overall picture. In every respect, the achievements of all concerned were thoroughly worthy of this or, indeed, of any other festival.

“Maestro Knappertsbusch is on the concentrated form of his 1951 Munich Tristan. …all is steely strength, realised through dynamic sensitivity and spacious tempi… Any suspicion that Astrid Varnay… might sound too grand or "old" for Senta is soon swept away by her commitment to making voice and drama one. Her final pledge to the Dutchman ("Wohl kenn ich dich!") is genuinely frightening... Hermann Uhde is... noble, tortured, hugely moving, and duets well with Varnay. ...the new issue catches an exciting first night and is musically competitive in a catalogue strangely bare of exciting modern recordings.” Gramophone Magazine, February 2010

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - February 2010

Orfeo - Orfeo d'Or - Bayreuther Festspiele live - C692092i

(CD - 2 discs)

$22.50

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Ned Rorem - On an echoing road

Ned Rorem - On an echoing road

Duets, Trios and Quartets from Evidence of things not seen interspersed with songs


Rorem:

Early in the morning

Are you the new person?

Rain in spring

For Susan

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair

To a Young Girl

Catullus

On the burial

Requiescat

I will always love you

That shadow, my likeness

On an echoing road

I Strolled Across an Open Field

Alleluia

Little Elegy

Sometimes with one I love

Hymn for evening

Orchids

On a singing girl

Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal

What if some little pain

Look down fair moon

The Rainbow

Do I love you more than a day?

Their lonely betters

O Do Not Love Too Long

Comment on war

The Serpent

Full of life now


Anna Leese (soprano), Jennifer Johnston (mezzo), Andrew Staples (tenor), Jacques Imbrailo (baritone), Tim Mead (countertenor) & Alisdair Hogarth (piano / director)

Prince Consort

“Stylistically and tonally, the blend was sensational.” The Independent

“The Prince Consort represents everything that is fine about young music makers in this country.” Sir Thomas Allen, Patron

The dynamic Prince Consort comprises five singers and a pianist, all of whom are drawing major international attention for their solo endeavours. Brought together by their love of singing this repertoire, Anna Leese, Jennifer Johnston, Andrew Staples, Jacques Imbrailo, Tim Mead and Alisdair Hogarth are a compelling combination. Their debut album “Ned Rorem – On an echoing road” will consolidate their success and establish them as a celebrated ensemble.

Ned Rorem is one of the most widely-recorded living American composers, who Time Magazine called "the world's best composer of art songs".

Ned Rorem – On an echoing road features songs that are lyrical, beguiling and unaffectedly simple, intriguing, melodic and intimate. They have echoes of French, English and American song repertoires whilst being distinctively Ned Rorem.

The Prince Consort will be giving the official European premiere of Ned Rorem's masterpiece song cycle 'Evidence of things not seen' at the Oxford Lieder Festival in October 2009 to coincide with the album launch.

New York magazine called ‘Evidence of Things Not Seen’ "one of the musically richest, most exquisitely fashioned, most voice-friendly collections of songs I have ever heard by any American composer".

The Prince Consort is fast emerging as a fresh, exciting and versatile ensemble. Their performances are characterised by wide-ranging programmes and polished presentation, which showcase different combinations of voice and piano, from solos to small groups in piano-accompanied song.

The singers in the Prince Consort are each award-winning and critically acclaimed performers in their own right and create a beautifully balanced blend together.

The Prince Consort received a rave review from Anna Picard in The Independent, for their 2009 Wigmore Hall debut: “...a vivid, compelling performance.”

Alisdair Hogarth (piano) is the regular partner to many of his generation’s finest young artists and made his concerto debut with the London Philharmonic Orchestra at the age of 15. Alisdair is the regular pianist for Amici Forever, Nicky Spence, Katherine Jenkins and The Choirboys.

“The more one hears of Rorem's songs, too, the more intriguing they seem...The performances catch every drop of that naturalness, too; the disc may only scratch the surface of Rorem's songwriting (over 600 settings to date) but it crystallises its essence perfectly.” The Guardian, 19th November 2009 ****

“…this is a most attractive disc. The Prince Consort comprises five singers still young, clear and intelligent in their way with words, and their pianist-director, Alisdair Hogarth. Unusually they have a countertenor in their midst, the excellent Tim Mead, who shares the title-song, a duet, with Anna Leese, and has two of the best solos. South African baritone Jacques Imbrailo is also noteworthy: the recording brings out the individual timbre of his voice, and to him goes what I still find best of the songs, "Early in the morning".” Gramophone Magazine, February 2010

“All five singers have clearly grasped the importance of Rorem's text-based conception of song, 'poetry as expressed through the voice' and they sing - albeit in resolutely English English which can sometimes jar in Rorem's settings of poems by fellow-Americans - with an unforced lightness which brings the words to the fore.” BBC Music Magazine, February 2010 ****

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - February 2010

Super Audio CD

Format:

Hybrid Multi-channel

Up to 25% off Linn

Linn - CKD342

(SACD)

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Christian Lindberg – The Baroque Trombone

Christian Lindberg – The Baroque Trombone


Bertali:

Sonata a 3

Biber:

Sonata a 3

Castello, D:

Three Sonatas

Cesare:

La Hieronyma

Frescobaldi:

Four Canzonas

Speer:

Sonata à 3

Gigue


Christian Lindberg, trombone (sackbut) & Neal Peres Da Costa (harpsichord/organ)

Members of the Australian Chamber Orchestra

Christian Lindberg, who has done more than anyone to establish the modern trombone as a solo instrument, bought his first sackbut 30 years ago, and already then dreamed of recording a baroque programme. Now the opportunity to do so has arrived – largely due to Lindberg’s encounter with the violinist Richard Tognetti and his Australian Chamber Orchestra. The Lindberg / ACO collaboration has already been documented on disc in a programme of 18th-century trombone concertos (BISCD1248), a release described in International Record Review as ‘sensational … one of those recordings which make criticism a glorious irrelevance.’

“…some of these pieces are not specifically scores for sackbut but Lindberg's virtuosity is such that you would not want to deny him the opportunity to cut loose in them. …expert performances from all concerned.” Gramophone Magazine, February 2010

“...there is no questioning Lindberg's nimble articulation or feeling for the music...The members of the Australian Chamber Orchestra...provide responsive and charming accompaniments and the programming is nicely balanced.” BBC Music Magazine, July 2010 ****

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - February 2010

BIS - BISCD1688

(CD)

$15.00

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Bach, J S: The Well-Tempered Clavier, Books 1 & 2

Bach, J S: The Well-Tempered Clavier, Books 1 & 2


When a musician of the rank and status of Roger Woodward decides to record Bach's complete Well-Tempered Clavier at the age of 65, one could see a symbolic connection here, keeping in mind that Bach passed away at 65; the pianist senses responsibility for the continuation of tradition. Moreover, Woodward sees an additional obligation to add new life to the music through his unique style of interpretation. With this, he is in the best of company indeed: it had been pointed out repeatedly - since his release of BWV 903, the Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue - that Woodward's Bach is the most exciting since Glenn Gould. However, one ought not to misunderstand Woodward as iconoclast; his understanding of Bach is minted by tradition and above all by respect, especially in the demonstration of such respect to those who set standards during the first century of recording technology. Although Woodward named it 'a defining moment' when he received the first finished copies of his Well-Tempered Clavier, he hastens to point out that one has to see him as the eternal student whose search for truth in music cannot end.

If one compares Woodward's reference recording of both books of Debussy's Préludes (Celestial Harmonies 13279-2) with his complete recording of both books of the Well-Tempered Clavier on 5 CDs, one winds up with the identical understanding of the works despite having traveled in opposite directions. As it was Woodward's intention to find the structure (or, as he says, 'the geometry') in Debussy, taking passion as a given, so is his way to Bach the reverse: He accepts the structure as a given and embarks on the search for passion.

In both instances, one receives as the result a balanced yet passionate interpretation where structure and expression co-exist, as should be the case in all great music. It is something like the heart of great Flamenco: the ideal and complete merging of total discipline and precision with the passion which only can give true life to music.

When Woodward was searching for the 'sacred cantilena' in Chopin's Nocturnes (Celestial Harmonies 14260-2), he rests his search for a fleeting moment with the 'legato cantabile' which can only be played as such on a modern grand piano (here a Hamburg Steinway D, dating from the early 1980s).

Surely what Woodward said about Hans Otte and his 48-part magnum opus 'Book of Hours' (Celestial Harmonies 13259-2) is equally true in the case of Bach: that some music doesn't open up through practice alone but only through reflection as it is philosophy in the end.

“…the pianist's superb contrapuntal acumen, imaginative ornamentation and quietly strong sense of inner rhythm keep the music alive and moving forward. Gentle mobility characterises Book 2's A major Fugue, where the soft, pearly lines move in a manner akin to a kitten working its way out of a handbag.” Gramophone Magazine, February 2010

“This 5CD set... may well be the most significant since Glenn Gould's revolutionary completion of the sequence...[Woodward's] thorough sleevenote In Search Of A Performance Practice...may constitute the last word on this subject, as too may his performance. Remarkable.” The Independent, 19th March 2010 *****

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - February 2010

Celestial Harmonies - CH199222

(CD - 5 discs)

$41.00

(also available to download from $50.00)

This item is currently out of stock at the UK distributor. You may order it now but please be aware that it may be six weeks or more before it can be despatched. (Available now to download.)

Doric String Quartet

Doric String Quartet


Haydn:

String Quartet, Op. 9 No. 4 in D minor

String Quartet, Op. 50 No. 2 in C major

String Quartet, Op. 76 No. 1 in G major

String Quartet, Op. 50 No. 1 in B flat major

Encore


In 2008 they won 1st prize in the Osaka International Chamber Music Competition in Japan, 2nd prize at the Premio Paolo Borciani International String Quartet Competition in Italy, where they also received a special mention for their performance of Haydn, and the Ensemble Prize at the Festspiele Mecklenburg-Vorpommern in Germany.

During 2009/10 the Quartet return to Wigmore Hall four times, as Quartet and in recitals with Philip Langridge, Andrew Kennedy (for a world premiere) and Alasdair Beatson. Future engagements include recitals at the Konzerthaus in Berlin and in Lucerne, Brussels and Hamburg, return visits to Israel and Italy, and debut concerts in Australia, New Zealand, Spain, and the USA.

This disc is the quartet’s first commercial CD, and in 2010 they record their first CD for Chandos as part of a long-term collaboration.

“We are incredibly excited about our cd release on the Wigmore Hall Live label. This is our first commercial CD and it is an honour for our debut disk to be on such a prestigious label connected to such a famous concert hall. We are also very pleased to be able to present an all-Haydn disk as Haydn is a composer very close to us. The choice of quartets on the cd is also interesting as they give a glimpse into three different periods. The Op 76 no. 1 is a very famous work but it is a pleasure to be able to include two lesser known works. We are very excited by Haydn and relish the opportunity to share this excitement through this release” Doric String Quartet

“These musicians are different. Not radically different but enough to notice that their style of playing, though highly disciplined, isn't cuttingly concentrated. Then there is Haydn the musical orator, found in the finale of Op 76 No 1. Listen to how the quartet unfolds its rhetoric, from turbulent G minor to the light-hearted, even flippant G major ending - of wit and sparkle. Want more? Try the encore, the finale from Op 50 No 1, and note how playing the Doric sign off in this, their very auspicious recording debut.” Gramophone Magazine, February 2010

“The Dorics might look as if they are scarcely beyond their gap years, but their first commercial recording shows them to be musically fully matured... The Dorics give us a direct link to the composer’s genial and touching inventiveness; and, indeed, move us in the beautiful slow movements.” Sunday Times, 15th November 2009 ****

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - February 2010

Wigmore Hall Live - WHLIVE0032

(CD)

$10.25

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Prokofiev: Romeo and Juliet, Op. 64

Prokofiev: Romeo and Juliet, Op. 64


Carlos Acosta (Romeo) & Tamara Rojo (Juliet), José Martín (Mercutio) & Thiago Soares (Tybalt)

Royal Ballet Sinfonia, Boris Gruzin

Choreography: Kenneth MacMillan

Cuban Superstar Carlos Acosta dances Romeo in Kenneth Macmillan’s timeless version of the Shakespeare/Prokofiev Classic Ballet ‘Romeo & Juliet.’ In this perennial favourite, Carlos Acosta dances alongside his regular partner, the Spanish ballerina, Tamara Rojo – a celebrated stage partnership which currently has no equal. The drama of the doomed lovers is set against the ravishing sets and costumes designs of Nicholas Georgiadis.

‘Romeo & Juliet’ and ‘Manon’ signal the beginning of a major collaboration with Carlos Acosta and The Royal Ballet, which continued in early 2009 with the filming of ‘La Bayadère’.

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - February 2010

Blu-ray Disc

Region: all

Decca - 0743336

(Blu-ray)

$23.25

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Franck - String Quartet & Piano Quintet

Franck - String Quartet & Piano Quintet


Franck, C:

String Quartet in D major

Piano Quintet in F minor, Op. 14

Cristina Ortiz (piano)


Cristina Ortiz and the Fine Arts Quartet again join forces for this recording of Franck’s Piano Quintet.The extraordinary emotional range of this work is unified by the tight thematic relationships typical of the composer’s ‘cyclic’ structuring.

His String Quartet, composed ten years later, is a summit of Franck’s achievement, also cyclically conceived and revealing his admiration of Beethoven, Mendelssohn and Brahms.

“The Fine Arts Quartet… are at their very best in both slow movements, with Christina Ortiz matching their ebb and flow perfectly in the Quintet.” BBC Music Magazine, Christmas 2009 ****

“Ortiz and her colleagues realise all of Franck's pent-up feeling in a performance of a special musical refinement and commitment… The Fine Arts Quartet, too, are entirely at home in the very different scope of the String Quartet, relishing both the music's contrapuntal intricacy and its full-blown romanticism.” Gramophone Magazine, February 2010

“very fine accounts of both masterpieces. They have ardour and finesse in equal measure.” Penguin Guide, 2011 edition

“Like his larger-scale works, Franck's chamber compositions are few in number but utterly distinctive. As in the Symphony, Franck's favoured cyclic form is here a unifying factor in both works. The Fine Arts Quartet and pianist Cristina Ortiz reveal the full emotional scope of these intimate and moving pieces.” David Smith, Presto Classical, 13th March 2015

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Editor's Choice - February 2010

Naxos - 8572009

(CD)

$7.50

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Glass, P: Symphony No. 7 'Toltec'

Glass, P: Symphony No. 7 'Toltec'


This is the World Premiere Recording of this work and is a Gramophone Editor’s Choice. It was originally commissioned and performed by Leonard Slatkin and the National Symphony Orchestra. The symphony was composed in 2004 and is dedicated to the Toltec civilization that lived in Mesoamerica from 500 BC – 500 AD.

“…Glass does not simply go through the motions here: the work plumbs great depths in the first movement and sales vast heights in the last. In between, the second movement's impressively harnessed massed choral textures evoke similar moments in Glass's powerful opera Akhnaten, which also looks towards the beliefs and practices of ancient civilisations.” Gramophone Magazine, February 2010

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - February 2010

Contemporary Music - up to 25% off

Orange Mountain - OMM0061

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London Mozart Players: Complete HMV Stereo Recordings Volume 1

London Mozart Players: Complete HMV Stereo Recordings Volume 1

All tracks released for the first time on CD


Arriaga:

Symphony in D

Haydn:

Symphony No. 103 in E flat major 'Drum Roll'

mono recording

Mozart:

Symphony No. 41 in C major, K551 'Jupiter'

First release in stereo

Concerto for 2 Pianos and Orchestra No. 10 in E flat, K365

First release in stereo

Vitaya Vronsky & Victor Babin (pianos)

Four Minuets

Three German Dances

First release in stereo

Symphony No. 28 in C major, K200

Concerto for two pianos and orchestra in F major

First release in stereo

Vitaya Vronsky & Victor Babin (pianos)

Serenade No. 9 in D major, K320 'Posthorn'

First release in stereo


The 1950s were the Golden Age of the London Mozart Players. Harry Blech had an incredible musical instinct which, coupled with his unfailingly musical and heartfelt performances drew faithful capacity audiences to the ten regular Royal Festival Hall concerts each season – a difficult act to follow these days! These HMV recordings were made in 1956 and 1957 at Abbey Road Studios, London and were remastered there in 2009 using the original EMI stereo source tapes which had lain undisturbed for over 50 years!

“…in both mono and stereo, the sound remains extremely well balanced and the performances are both robust and warmly phrased… The two Mozart symphonies (Nos 28 and 41) are noteworthy for their keen attack and rhythmic solidity…” Gramophone Magazine, February 2010

“This very cheaply priced and well-packaged set shows what the London Mozart Players were like in the years before they had competition...These recordings, made in the late 1950s...show not only how alert a body it was, but also what comparatively advanced Mozart style of the period was like.” BBC Music Magazine, June 2010 ****

GGramophone Magazine

Re-issue of the Month - February 2010

First Hand - FHR05

(CD - 3 discs)

$16.50

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