Gramophone Magazine Editor's Choice

July 2015

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Ysaÿe: Six Sonatas for solo violin Op. 27


Gramophone Awards 2016

Shortlisted - Instrumental

Gramophone Magazine

Disc of the Month - July 2015



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Ysaÿe: Six Sonatas for solo violin Op. 27


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Presto's David Smith talks to Alina Ibragimova about Ysaÿe's writing for solo violin here.

Ysaÿe’s Sonatas for solo violin were sketched out in a fevered twenty-four hours during the summer of 1923, a response to the question of why—in over two hundred years—no one had attempted to follow the path forged by Johann Sebastian Bach. Each of these six new Sonatas is dedicated to and customized around the playing style of a contemporary violinist, and as such they present formidable challenges. Russian virtuoso Alina Ibragimova, whose earlier recording of the Bach Sonatas was revelatory, turns out performances fully worthy of this distinguished ancestry.

Eugene Ysaÿe: Sonata for solo violin in G minor, Op. 27 No. 1

1. Grave: Lento Assai

2. Fugato: Molto Moderato

3. Allegretto Poco Scherzoso: Amabile

4. Finale Con Brio: Allegro Fermo

Eugene Ysaÿe: Sonata for solo violin in A minor, Op. 27 No. 2

1. Obsession, 'Prélude': Poco Vivace

2. Malinconia: Poco Lento

3. Danse Des Ombres, 'Sarabande': Lento

4. Les Furies: Allegro Furioso

Eugene Ysaÿe: Sonata for solo violin in D minor, Op. 27 No. 3 'Ballade'

Sonata For Solo Violin #3

Eugene Ysaÿe: Sonata for solo violin in E minor, Op. 27 No. 4

1. Allemanda: Lento Maestoso

2. Sarabande: Quasi Lento

3. Finale: Presto Ma Non Troppo

Eugene Ysaÿe: Sonata for solo violin in G major, Op. 27 No. 5

1. L'Aurore: Lento Assai

2. Danse Rustique: Allegro Giocoso Molto Moderato

Eugene Ysaÿe: Sonata for solo violin in E major, Op. 27 No. 6

Sonata For Solo Violin #6

The Guardian

28th May 2015


“Together, the sonatas form a freewheeling ride to the limits of violin technique, often recalling Bach but more often not. Alina Ibragimova is a superb advocate; nothing here sounds like a mere showpiece, and her performances brim with lyricism and wit.”

Gramophone Magazine

July 2015

“Ibragimova has made many fine recordings in recent years, but this solo Ysaye disc must count as one of her most memorable achievements...If we think of Ibragimova as a thoughtful, even scholarly player, here she proves herself adept at all the frequent showy tricks...she takes her place now as one of the most distinguished exponents of these fascinating works.”

The Times

19th June 2015


“Nothing in the violin canon is quite like this: the ghost of Bach lurks behind each sonata, but their character is distinct: there is wry humour, grave beauty and daring impetuosity. Ibragimova transfixes throughout.”

BBC Music Magazine

August 2015


“she's up there with the best...there's much of the tonal and dynamic palette that this music needs, characterising the forceful and passionate, as well as the shadowy and understated. She has a good feel for organic rubato,which never loses the underlying pulse, and can change mood and colour almost instantaneously.”

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If the owl calls again: Christianne Stotijn

If the owl calls again: Christianne Stotijn


Three Songs for voice, viola and piano (H76)


Ecoute mon coeur


Quatre Poèmes hindous





Martin, F:

Trois Chants de Noël


Durch einsamkeiten




Evening Prayer

The soul flew quietly through the celestial skies


Deux mélodies hébraïques

Christianne Stotijn (mezzo), Joseph Breinl (piano), Rick Stotijn (double bass), Antoine Tamestit (viola)

Dutch mezzo-soprano Christianne Stotijn presents an album of songs on the theme of nature and religion. From works by Martin, Ravel and Mussorgsky, to a world premiere by Dutch composer Fant de Kanter, and featuring song texts in Hebrew, Armenian, Russian, French, English, German and Dutch, this is a beautifully crafted and highly diverse album. This new album sees Christianne re-united with many of her regular musical collaborators: Joseph Breinl, Antoine Tamestit, her brother Rick Stotijn, Toon Fret, Olivier Boekhoorn and the Oxalys Ensemble.

“As you might suspect, soulful slowness prevails. Yet the varied sonorities and idioms, and Stotijn's range of colour and emotional intensity, preclude any whiff of monotony...Stotijn's regular pianist Joseph Breinl impresses with the variety and delicacy of his touch...Stotijn fans and adventurous song aficionados should need no encouragement to investigate a thoroughly memorable recital.” Gramophone Magazine, July 2015

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Warner Classics - 5419639375



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Grieg: Piano Concerto & Lyric Pieces

Grieg: Piano Concerto & Lyric Pieces


Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 16

BBC Symphony Orchestra, Sakari Oramo

Lyric Pieces Op. 38: No. 8 - Waltz

Lyric Pieces Op. 12: No. 1 - Arietta

Lyric Pieces Op. 43: No. 1 - Butterfly

Lyric Pieces Op. 47: No. 3 - Melody

Lyric Pieces Op. 43: No. 2 - Lonely Wanderer

Lyric Pieces Op. 54: No. 3 - March of the Trolls

Lyric Pieces Op. 54: No. 4 - Nocturne

Lyric Pieces Op. 57: No. 6 - Homesickness

Lyric Pieces Op. 68: No. 3 - At your feet

Lyric Pieces Op. 68: No. 5 - At the cradle

Lyric Pieces Op. 71: No. 1 - Once upon a Time

Lyric Pieces Op. 71: No. 7 - Remembrances

The work of a young musician of 25, the celebrated Piano Concerto by Grieg combines the great Romantic tradition and Norwegian folk music. The 'Lyric Pieces' are among the works that made Grieg world-famous. As in the case of the Piano Concerto, commentators have held that a certain combination of intervals (the ‘Grieg motif’) is chiefly responsible for its specific Norwegian quality. For Grieg himself the question of Norwegian culture was a tremendously important one, and he used his international reputation to fight tirelessly for the recognition of Norway as a state. He owed that reputation in considerable part to the 'Lyric Pieces', which he wrote over the space of four decades. They are indebted to the Romantic character piece in free form, which became widespread after 1830 and found outstanding representatives in Schumann and Mendelssohn. Grieg certainly also composed them with a view to their use in teaching the piano, with the result that they swiftly won the hearts of devotees of domestic music-making all over Europe. The present recording offers a representative selection: a set of eight pieces with which the 24year-old composer scored a resounding success immediately upon publication. He had managed to establish a personal voice virtually at a stroke. Further books followed over the decades, and, surprisingly enough, he enjoyed unfailing success with them, even though he hardly changed his ‘artistic strategy’.

“it is an interpretation into which soloist and orchestra seem, gratifyingly, to have grown together... the romantic expansiveness that marks their interpretation overall is tempered by playing from both pianist and orchestra that is as crisp and highly charged as one could want.” The Guardian, 28th May 2015 ****

“I really fell for Perianes’ playing here, I love that he embraces the breadth of that cadenza, he plays it as if it’s totally fresh like we’ve never heard those themes before … just gorgeous.” CD Review

“Perianes's performance is of such a fearless and arresting brilliance that it virtually erases memories of the past. For here is Grieg restored to all its first icy, northern and unsentimental glory...The BBC Symphony Orchestra under Sakari Oramo are with their soloist all the way so that you may well find yourself falling in love and in awe all over again with this evergreen Romantic masterpiece.” Gramophone Magazine, July 2015

“There is spontaneity to Perianes’ playing in this live concerto that is most compelling … the orchestra plays with great beauty. Perianes’ greatest achievement is the first movement cadenza, which emerges here as a brooding tone-poem; the debt to Lizst is clear...The stand-out success is the remarkable ‘Notturno’; here Grieg’s interior side clearly resonates with Perianes.” International Piano, July/August 2015

“This version will give pleasure to those who want an unfussy, brilliant and virtuosic concerto … The CD also includes a studio recording of a dozen Lyric Pieces, showing the pianist fully understands the idiom. It is all well recorded and performed.” Pianist Magazine, August/September 2015

“enormously exciting and tremendous fun … Perianes’ playing is full of sensitivity and subtlety, and will give a great deal of pleasure.” MusicWeb International, November 2015

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - July 2015

Harmonia Mundi - HMC902205



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Mendelssohn, Grieg & Hough: Cello Sonatas

Mendelssohn, Grieg & Hough: Cello Sonatas


Cello Sonata in A minor, Op. 36


Sonata for cello and piano left hand 'Les adieux'


Cello Sonata No. 2 in D major, Op. 58

Steven Isserlis (cello) & Stephen Hough (piano)

Grieg’s sole Cello Sonata has long been a favourite of performers and audiences, if not of musical theorists, and here receives an impassioned vote of confidence from Steven Isserlis and Stephen Hough at the head of a programme which takes the listener forwards in time to Hough’s own Sonata for cello and piano left hand and back to Mendelssohn’s ever-popular Cello Sonata No 2. A spirit of passionate romanticism unifies the whole.

“everywhere their reading [of the Grieg] glints with conviction...Isserlis is matchless in the way he tugs at the simple melody to heart-rending effect...[The Hough is] unafraid to breathe an air of nostalgia...but the results are refreshingly personal...The performance couldn't be more persuasive and the two players are beautifully recorded.” Gramophone Magazine, July 2015

“If any reminder were needed that Steven Isserlis is at the top of his game, this is it...Their opening Allegro agitato is a thrilling tour de force, Isserlis sinewy and febrile, Hough's sound lucid and full-bodied with an ideal recorded balance.” BBC Music Magazine, August 2015 *****

“Isserlis supplies the rush of emotion to Stephen Hough’s accompaniment.” Financial Times, 17th July 2015

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Monteverdi Madrigali Volume 1: Cremona

Monteverdi Madrigali Volume 1: Cremona


Il primo libro de madrigali, 1587

Il secondo libro de madrigali, 1590

Il terzo libro de madrigali, 1592

This disc is the second of three volumes to appear offering an anthology of the eight Books of madrigals by Monteverdi, interpreted by Les Arts Florissants directed by Paul Agnew.

Each volume will be associated with one of the cities that marked out the composer’s career: this opus dedicated to Cremona (extracts of Books I, II, III) takes part after the one dedicated to Mantova (Books IV, V, VI already released) and before the Venice volume (to be released in February 2016 – Books VII and VIII). Cremona is the city where one of the greatest geniuses in music grew up: Monteverdi was born in 1567 and spent his first 20 years in this small Lombard city on the Po plain, where his musical vocation was born.

Les Arts Florissants are the best ambassadors, who have since 2011, performed this repertoire throughout Europe; a vast undertaking..

“Cremona dips into Books 1-3 to show a ballsy young composer flexing his muscles, breathlessly setting love poems and brimming with clever tricks. Les Arts capture all the exuberant invention. Their delivery is fresh and colloquial, like animated conversation between friends. The vocal blend isn’t smooth – the character of each singer shines through, and the result is all the more colourful for it.” The Guardian, 18th June 2015 ****

“If a keen sense of the interpretative moment is the hallmark of ensemble performance at its best, then this new Monteverdi instalment from Les Arts Florissants deserves to be held up as such...One is torn between regret that there is to be only one further volume, and anticipation at what it might bring.” Gramophone Magazine, July 2015

“There are some delightfully sparkling and engaging displays here...recordings of Monteverdi's very early madrigals are rare and this surpasses some...if not all.” BBC Music Magazine, October 2015 ***

GGramophone Awards 2016

Winner - Baroque Vocal

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - July 2015

Les Arts Florissants Editions - AF005



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Gasparini: Il Bajazet

Gasparini: Il Bajazet

Leonardo De Lisi (Bajazet), Filippo Mineccia (Tamerlano), Giuseppina Bridelli (Asteria), Ewa Gubanska (Irene), Antonio Giovannini (Andronico), Benedetta Mazzucato (Clearco), Raffaele Pe (Leone), Giorgia Cinciripi (Zaida)

Auser Musici, Carlo Ipata

Carlo Ipata, inveterate searcher out of unjustly forgotten musical scores, directs 'Il Bajazet', an important three-act opera by Francesco Gasparini - which shows marked influences of the Roman Arcadian School of the Baroque. Ipata conducts the orchestra of his own Auser Musici for this new Glossa recording, made in conjunction with performances which took place at last year’s Opera Festival in Barga.

The score used is that for the 1719 dramma in musica performed in Reggio Emilia, as updated by Gasparini to accommodate the starry Baroque talents of Francesco Borosini, Antonio Bernacchi, Marianna Bulgarelli and Faustina Bordoni. Their modern-day counterparts in Barga are Leonardo De Lisi (Bajazet), Filippo Mineccia (Tamerlano), Giuseppina Bridelli (Asteria) and Ewa Gubanska (Irene). There is also a cameo role for Raffaele Pe, whose Glossa 'The Medici Castrato' disc was released recently.

Like other composers active at the very end of the 17th century and the start of the 18th, Gasparini’s music was swept aside by the talented activities of Vivaldi and Porpora (and the influence of Farinelli and Carestini), and of course of Handel, whose score for 'Tamerlano' (the earlier version of 'Il Bajazet' had been called 'Tamerlano') reflect very close readings of Gasparini’s own operas. In her booklet essay Antonella D’Ovidio delves into the history of Gasparini’s 'Il Bajazet' and comments lucidly on the style of this neglected operatic master.

Recorded in Barga (Chiesa del Crocifisso), Italy, from 29 June to 6 July 2014

“Ipata conducts with a thoughtful ear for detailed phrasing and Auser Musici provide graceful orchestral playing...The set is essential for anyone wanting to better understand the course material that inspired Handel's genius; but of course it also reveals some considerable merits of Gasparini.” Gramophone Magazine, July 2015

“Leonardo De Lisi commands Borosini's odd tenor-baritone register…and communicates Bajazet's brooding complexity even in the shortest of numbers. Countertenor Filippo Mineccia's edgy, ferocious brilliance brings out Tamerlano's ever-simmering menace…in Bordoni's role, Ewa Gubanska embodies sweetness, particularly in her penultimate aria ravishingly set to pizzicato violins. The musicianship of director Carlo Ipata and Auser Musici is superb” BBC Music Magazine, November 2015

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Editor's Choice - July 2015

Glossa - GCD923504

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Christiane Karg: Scene!

Christiane Karg: Scene!


Ah! Perfido, Op. 65


Miseri noi! Misera patria! (Cantata), Hob.XXIVa:7

Berenice, che fai? (Scena di Berenice), Hob XXIVa:10


Infelice - concert aria for soprano and orchestra, Op. 94


Ch'io mi scordi di te?... Non temer, amato bene, K505

Misera, dove son? - Ah! non son' io che parlo! K369

Read Presto's complete review of this disc here.

LOST SOULS! Emotional scenes that tear at the heart strings: concert arias are great dramas reduced to a few minutes and focussed on one single character. But what is the origin of the genre? And what inspired the great composers, stimulated by great voices and great moments in literature or even by the operas written by their fellow musicians? What they composed were moving, dramatic scenes for the concert hall, and they gave their all in creating them.

Christiane Karg is one of those fascinating voices, and who knows which concert arias Haydn or Mozart might have written for her? She is certainly one of today’s most interesting German singers with an international profile.

After studying in Salzburg her career initially took off in Hamburg and Frankfurt. Her solo career has since taken her to the Semperoper in Dresden, to Salzburg, Covent Garden and Glyndebourne, and the list of her stage partners is clear evidence of her elevated status.

Following her highly acclaimed Strauss Lieder album, her fourth CD is a new orchestral recording on which the soprano chooses the tried and trusted Arcangelo ensemble with its conductor Jonathan Cohen to accompany her, as was the case on her “Amoretti” album. After winning the coveted Echo Award for her debut album, “Amoretti” gave her the breakthrough into the CD market.

“Scene!” is the title of her new CD, and it demonstrates how her voice has developed – something she describes in the booklet in these terms: “After my CD of Mozart and Gluck arias I thought it was the right time to take a step outside the Classical world and to explore the fach in more detail, without suddenly turning into an Isolde.”

What fascinates her about these particular arias? “Large‐scale emotions in a small space with lost souls at the centre – forlornness that can also turn to hatred. That’s what it’s about and that’s what I want to demonstrate.”

Well then: curtain up for Christiane Karg!

“There’s a lovely sense of exploration and discovery about this project, both in terms of the repertoire and Karg’s own vocal qualities...we’re clearly in the presence of a singer who knows her instrument inside out and husbands her resources judiciously in service of the music rather than blowing a gasket trying to emulate her predecessors.” Katherine Cooper, Presto Classical, 22nd June 2015

“Throughout, Karg holds vocal finesse and expressive intensity in near-ideal equipoise...Singing with style, grace and fiery temperament, Karg brings each of these distraught heroines excitingly, individually alive, while the superb players of Arcangelo - not least the dulcet clarinets - are true dramatic partners rather than mere accompanists.” Gramophone Magazine, July 2015

“[this CD] finds her reinforcing her Mozartian credentials while seemingly auditioning for the more dramatic roles she will surely get in the not-too-distant future. Karg’s soprano has a metallic gleam that cuts through the buoyant ensemble playing of Arcangelo, who, directed by Jonathan Cohen, are responsive to all the scenery-chewing moodswings.” The Guardian, 26th June 2015 ****

“Well planned and superbly executed, with nothing putting Karg beyond her comfort zone, even as she steps into a dramatic fach, which she says is new to her. It’s a wonderfully clear, expressive soprano, beautifully accompanied by Arcangelo.” CD Review, 12th June 2015

“Karg’s lighter timbre is tested, not uncomfortably, by the [Beethoven's] range and intensity, but she comes into her own in Mozart’s sublime Ch’io mi scordi di te... Haydn’s Scena di Berenice and Mendelssohn’s Infelice are sung with an intensity to match Janet Baker’s. Fabulous.” Sunday Times, 5th July 2015

“Karg, a splendidly accomplished artist, delivers every item with acute sensitivity to mood and verbal nuance…with Arcangelo in perfectly weighted period-instrument support, the disc gives uninterrupted pleasure.” BBC Music Magazine, September 2015

Presto Disc of the Week

22nd June 2015

GGramophone Awards 2016

Finalist - Recital

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - July 2015

Berlin Classics - 0300646BC



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Birtwistle: Angel Fighter

Birtwistle: Angel Fighter


Angel Fighter

Andrew Watts (Angel) & Jeffrey Lloyd-Roberts (Jacob)

In Broken Images

Virelai (Sus une fontayne)

Harrison Birtwistle is internationally regarded as one of the most striking and individual composers today. His unique soundworld runs the full gamut from large-scale operatic and orchestral canvases, rich in mythical and primitivist power, to intimate chamber works, contemplative in their lyricism.

One of Birtwistle's most recent works The Cure – a co-commission between The Royal Opera House, Aldeburgh Music and London Sinfonietta – has its World Premiere 12-15 June at Britten Studio, Snape Maltings, Aldeburgh, and London Premiere at Linbury Studio Theatre, London 18–27 June 2015.

Described by The Guardian as 'hauntingly powerful', Birtwistle's cantata Angel Fighter vividly explores the Biblical story of the struggle between man and divine being from the Book of Genesis. Predictably, for a composer with a long-standing fascination in myth, drama and ritual, it's the physical fight between Jacob and the Angel more than religious signifi cance, that interests Birtwistle: the tension, twists of pulse, sharp accents and jeering chants from the chorus make it feel more like a wrestling match than a life-or-death struggle. Quartertones and string harmonics enhance the otherworldly descent of the Angel from Heaven and librettist Stephen Plaice makes clever use of Enochian, an angelic language 'discovered' by the 16th century alchemist and adviser to Queen Elizabeth I, John Dee.

In Broken Images, inspired by Gabrieli's multi-choir canzonas, splits the ensemble into four groups (woodwind, brass, strings and percussion) and takes its title from the Robert Graves poem. Birtwistle continues to draw influence from the past in Virelai (Sus une fontayne), a rhythmically intricate realisation of a piece by Johannes Ciconia, who flourished in the late Middle Ages, around the time that Chaucer was writing his Canterbury Tales.

“Angel Fighter, composed for the Thomaskirche in Leipzig, is a spare and strikingly original piece of dramatic storytelling. It presents the Old Testament tale of Jacob wrestling an angel as a ritualised game between the tenor Jacob (Jeffrey Lloyd-Roberts) and the counter-tenor Angel (Andrew Watts) and climaxes in one of the great dramatic moments in Birtwistle’s concert music.” The Guardian, 14th May 2015 ****

“[Angel Fighter] would evoke Bach cantatas if Birtwistle’s gestic pungency did not sweep all before...In Broken Images (2011) — an intriguing meditation on the eponymous Graves poem — might evoke Gabrieli but for the same proviso. The brief Virelai (Sus une fontayne) brilliantly transforms a late-medieval original.” Sunday Times, 17th May 2015

“anyone in 2015 disposed to expect ageing dinosaurs going through the motions should be struck by the energy and sharpness of response in these recordings...Angel Fighter owes as much to terse commentaries from choir and instruments as to extended dialogues between admirable singers, and Atherton couples scrupulous attention to detail with exemplary alertness to the steadily unfolding shape of the whole.” Gramophone Magazine, July 2015

“Birtwistle unleashes all his powers as a stage composer onto Stephen Plaice's text, using the whole building to create a thrilling dramatisation of the Bible story…pungent pizzicato rhythms, visceral trumpets, groaning lower brass and winds shrilling overhead drive the three-way confrontation…the London Sinfonietta, under David Atherton, lend it both soul and a zinging edge.” BBC Music Magazine, September 2015

GGramophone Awards 2016

Finalist - Contemporary

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - July 2015

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Pärt: Te Deum

Pärt: Te Deum


Te Deum

Live-Recording, Munich, Prinzregententheater, 2014

Pilgrims' Song

Live-Recording, Munich, Prinzregententheater, 2014

Berliner Messe

Live-Recording, Munich, Herkulessaal, 2012

Dopo la vittoria

Live-Recording, Munich, Herkulessaal, 2012

CDs from BR-KLASSIK and the Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks conducted by Peter Dijkstra are regular winners of prestigious awards – two such being the Strauss-Wagner-Mahler recording, which won the Diapason d'or, and the Concerto for Choir by Alfred Schnittke, which won the ECHO Klassik. In this latest recording of sacred music by Arvo Pärt, the Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks is joined by the Münchner Rundfunkorchester. The two ensembles frequently perform together in their concert series, which regularly include sacred music from the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries. The present CD production focuses on four compositions by the Estonian composer Arvo Pärt (born 1935). They were written in 1984, 1990 und 1997 in the composer's own tintinnabulation style of composition (from the Latin word for the 'ringing of bells'). In his Te Deum, Pärt makes a conscious departure from the traditionally powerful and festive sound of such precursors as Charpentier, Bruckner and Verdi. The restraint of the Wallfahrtslied (Pilgrims' Song), a setting of Psalm 121, evokes the ancient Judeo-Christian tradition of psalm recitation. Dopo la vittoria was commissioned by the City of Milan for the 1600 year celebration of the death of St. Ambrose (1997). The Berliner Messe (Berlin Mass) is so named because it was first performed in the city's St. Hedwig's Cathedral (1990) to mark the German Katholikentag (Catholics Day).

“this spacious music is full of alluring contrasts...The Kyrie's timeless quality sets the scene beautifully. Singers and players are perfectly balanced...Simplicity is the keyword here.” Gramophone Magazine, July 2015

“The Bavarian Radio Choir gives authoritative accounts of these subtly complex works, skilfully marshalled by conductor Peter Dijkstra and smartly captured in this impressive live recording.” BBC Music Magazine, September 2015

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