Gramophone Magazine Editor's Choice

October 2015

Disc of the Month

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JS Bach: Organ Works, Vol. 1


Gramophone Awards 2016

Finalist - Baroque Instrumental

Gramophone Magazine

Disc of the Month - October 2015

BBC Music Magazine

Instrumental Choice - January 2016



Catalogue No:




Release date:

25th Sept 2015




79 minutes


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JS Bach: Organ Works, Vol. 1

Bach, J S:

Toccata & Fugue in D minor, BWV565

Pastorale in F major, BWV590

Chorale Partita BWV767 'O Gott, du frommer Gott'

Fantasia in G major, BWV572

Prelude & Fugue in G minor, BWV535

Canonic Variations on the Christmas Hymn 'Vom Himmel hoch, da komm ich her', BWV769

Prelude & Fugue in E minor, BWV548 'Wedge'

Masaaki Suzuki (Schnitger/Hinz organ in the Martinikerk, Groningen)



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The recipient of the 2012 City of Leipzig Bach Medal, Masaaki Suzuki has earned an enviable reputation as an interpreter of the music of Johann Sebastian Bach – as a reviewer in International Record Guide has put it: 'With Suzuki you can hear Bach's heart beat'. To a wide audience he is known as the director of Bach Collegium Japan, and the moving force behind the ensemble's acclaimed recordings of Bach's complete sacred cantatas. Perhaps less well known is that he began his career – at the age of 12! – playing the organ at church services in Kobe, where he was born. Suzuki has remained true to the organ throughout his life, and for BIS he has previously recorded Bach's German Organ Mass, as well as programmes of Buxtehude and Sweelinck. He here appears on a disc which combines some of Bach's best-loved works for the instrument, including the D minor Toccata and Fugue, the Partitas on ‘O Gott, du frommer Gott’, BWV 767, the Canonic Variations, BWV 769, and the celebrated Prelude and Fugue in E minor, BWV 548. The recording was made in Groningen's Martinikerk, with Suzuki performing on the renowned organ, one of the most important and impressive in the Netherlands.

Johann Sebastian Bach: Toccata & Fugue in D Minor, BWV 565



Johann Sebastian Bach: Pastorale in F Major, BWV 590

I. Prelude

II. Allemande

III. Aria

IV. Gigue

Johann Sebastian Bach: O Gott, du frommer Gott, BWV 767

Partita I

Partita II

Partita III

Partita IV

Partita V

Partita VI

Partita VII

Partita VIII

Partita IX

Johann Sebastian Bach: Fantasia in G Major, BWV 572 "Pièce d'orgue"

Piece d'Orgue in G Major, BWV 572, "Fantasia in G Major"

Johann Sebastian Bach: Prelude and Fugue in G Minor, BWV 535



Johann Sebastian Bach: Von himmel hoch, da komm ich her, Op. 7, BWV 769

Variation 1: Canon all' Ottava

Variation 2: Alio modo in Canone alla Quinta

Variation 3: Canon alla Settima

Variation 4: Canon all' Ottava per augmentationem

Variation 5: L'altra sorte del Canone all' rovescio

Johann Sebastian Bach: Prelude and Fugue in E Minor, BWV 548 "Wedge"



BBC Music Magazine

January 2016


“One of the most versatile of all Bachians, Masaaki Suzuki still manages to spring a surprise with this outstanding recital...From its woody chuff to bright rasp, the instrument is superbly captured here and Suzuki uses it with flair and imagination...both this performance [of Von Himmel Hoch] and that of the pungent Pastorale breathe wioth the best seasonal spirit.”

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Britten: The Complete String Quartets

Britten: The Complete String Quartets


String Quartet No. 1 in D major, Op. 25

String Quartet No. 2 in C major, Op. 36

String Quartet No. 3, Op. 94

The Belcea Quartet is one of the world's leading chamber music ensembles, having won many international accolades since its establishment in 1994.

With the three string quartets by Benjamin Britten, the musicians have rediscovered a gem of twentieth century chamber music. The String Quartets nos. 1, 2 and 3 were written over a period of 34 years; the third was Britten's last major work, composed in 1975, just one year before his death.

The Belcea Quartet succeeds in an outstanding manner in holding the balance between the youthful exuberance of the first two quartets and the lyrical solemnity and sweet morbidity of the third.

These musicians display huge sensitivity for Britten's many nuances and perfect tonal balance.

Recorded at the legendary Studio Davout in Paris, June 2014, packed in luxury digipak.

Picture format DVD: 16:9 - NTSC

Sound format DVD: PCM Stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1

Region code: 0 (worldwide)

Booklet Notes: English, German, French

Running time: 90 mins

German FSK: 0

“While one might miss the pristine finesse of their previous set, this timbrally grainier recording offers an altogether grander, wilder conception, and an opportunity to watch the intense exchange between four remarkable string-players.” BBC Music Magazine, December 2015

“the Belcea play as though to intimate friends, fleet in speed, quick with nuance” Gramophone Magazine, October 2015

GGramophone Magazine

DVD of the Month - October 2015

DVD Video

Region: 0

Format: NTSC

EuroArts - 2072768

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Alessandro Scarlatti: Con eco d'amore

Alessandro Scarlatti: Con eco d'amore

Scarlatti, A:

Figlio! Tiranno! (from La Griselda)

Se geloso è il mio core (from Endimione e Cintia)

Nacque, col Gran Messia (from Non so qual piu)

A questo nuovo affanno (from L'Eraclea)

Mentre io godo in dolce oblio (from La Santissima Vergine)

Ombre opache

Qui dove … Torbido irato e nero

Con voce festiva

O vane speme! ... Cara tomba del mio diletto (from Il Mitridate Eupatore)

Sussurrando il venticello (from Tigrane)

Ergiti, Amor, su i vanni (from Scipione nelle Spagne)

Esci ommai (from Il Mitridate Eupatore)

Dolce stimolo al tuo bel cor (from Il Mitridate Eupatore)

D’amor l’accesa face (from Venere, Amore e Ragione)

Io non son di quei campioni (from La Statira)

A battaglia, pensieri

Elizabeth Watts (soprano), Mark Bennett (trumpet), Huw Daniel (violin) & Laurence Cummings (continuo, director)

The English Concert

With a voice described as "one of the most beautiful Britain has seen in a generation" (IRR), Elizabeth Watts has established herself among the brightest talents performing today. After training as a chorister at Norwich Cathedral, Elizabeth went on to study archaeology at Sheffield University before attending the Royal College of Music in London.

Her many prizes include the 2006 Kathleen Ferrier Prize (UK), the 2007 Outstanding Young Artist Award at the Cannes MIDEM Classique Awards and the Rosenblatt Recital Song Prize at the 2007 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Competition. A former ‘BBC New Generation Artist’, she received a Borletti-Buitoni Trust Award in 2011 and this recording is supported by the Trust. Her critically praised debut recording of Schubert Lieder was followed by an equally acclaimed disc of Bach Cantatas (harmonia mundi), a programme of Richard Strauss Lieder with Roger Vignoles, and a recording of Bach’s St Matthew Passion with the Academy of Ancient Music led by Richard Egarr.

In this selection of rarely heard Alessandro [rather than Domenico] Scarlatti arias from his cantatas, oratorios and operas, she is joined by the acclaimed period instrument ensemble The English Concert led by Laurence Cummings. Elizabeth is currently recording Couperin's 'Lecons de Tenebres' with Lucy Crowe and La Nuova Musica for harmonia mundi.

“Golden-voiced soprano Elizabeth Watts has spent the past few years unearthing neglected arias by Alessandro Scarlatti...Watts just about gets away with the spectacular pyrotechnics but is most affecting when Scarlatti takes his foot off the accelerator.” The Observer, 8th October 2015 ***

“this is exciting music, revealing an enormous range of colour and emotions through both scoring and vocal line. Watts grabs every opportunity with a voice of perfect weight, pliancy and line, offering a solid middle balanced with an exciting top.” Opera Now, October 2015

“The music is fascinating, often revelatory, the playing of The English Concert first-rate (Laurence Cummings always has a precise ear for texture and colour), while the mingled grace, brilliance and expressive intensity of Watt’s singing could hardly be bettered.” Gramophone Magazine, October 2015

“Here given new life with the invigorating English Concert, skittering firework displays alternate with soulful contemplation in a programme full of surprises.” The Independent, 11th October 2015

“As her career has progressed, Watts hasn't lost the ability to get to the heart of an aria and peel back the layers…there's scintillating playing from The English Concert, including a dashing obbilgato solo by violinist Huw Daniel in 'Esci omai'.” BBC Music Magazine, December 2015

“it’s amazing, tightrope walking stuff there; the fact that she can control her vibrato and actually distinguish between a trill and that vibrato and some of those high notes; the sheer tone quality is astonishing, and the way she’s managing to blend with the trumpet; this is a contest without an obvious winner, and that’s very much in the recording’s favour.” CD Review, 12th December 2015

“Watts and director Laurence Cummings give us a dazzling sequence of numbers. Her voice is thrilling at full pelt: brassy enough to make your windows rattle, but sensitive and seductive in the quieter moments. There’s some glorious, athletic trumpet playing from Mark Bennett, and the whole anthology fizzes with theatrical energy.” The Arts Desk, 26th December 2015

“Trumpeter Mark Bennett joins the singer occasionally, most effectively in the martial A battaglia, where soprano and brass battle it out for the virtuoso honours, while violinist Huw Daniel also vies for attention in an extended sequence from the serious opera Mitridate. But the album, of course, belongs to Watts, who receives nothing but the most sympathetic support from Laurence Cummings and The English Concert.” Classical Ear, 22nd February 2016

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - October 2015

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Brahms: String Quartets Nos. 1 & 3

Brahms: String Quartets Nos. 1 & 3


String Quartet No. 1 in C minor, Op. 51 No. 1

String Quartet No. 3 in B flat major, Op. 67

The Artemis Quartet pairs Brahms’ intense first quartet with his lighter-spirited third quartet, both works that the Artemis’ cellist, Eckart Runge, describes as “remarkable and multi-faceted”. He says that “Brahms marries a Romantic spirit with the structure and forms of Classicism. There is an almost symphonic approach in the writing, but at the same time the quartets are imbued with a sense of warmth, immediacy, friendship and love that is interwoven with a more spiritual, timeless beauty”.

Ever aware of the shadow of Beethoven, Brahms was 40 years old by the time he completed the first of his three published string quartets (op 51, No 1) in 1873; he is thought to have destroyed the 20 or so quartets that he had written previously. The third quartet (op 67) followed in 1875, the year before the premiere of the composer’s Symphony No 1, and a decade after the publication of his piano quintet, which the Artemis Quartet has recorded with Leif Ove Andsnes (Erato, 0094639514328).

“Brahms wrote three remarkable, multi-faceted quartets and we have recorded the first and third here,” continues Runge. “They were long considered to be quite conservative because their structure and thematic workings are in the tradition of Beethoven, but no less an innovator than Schoenberg called Brahms a ‘revolutionary traditionalist’ and saw these quartets as modern in their conception.

“These quartets are fantastic – full of ideas, contrasts and emotion. They are challenging to play – especially No 1 – because there is so much thematic material ... there is nothing in there that is not important. As players, you have to work out all the material, and the musical structure is deep and complex, while the textures can become dense with Brahms’ characteristic use of polyrhythms ... But at the same time you need to maintain transparency so that the audience can readily appreciate what it is hearing. This might be intellectual music, but its beauty should still give you goose bumps!

“The quartet No 3 doesn’t have the same dramatic weight as No 1 – it is characterised by a certain lightness and playfulness and is perhaps less ambitiously conceived than quartets No 1 and No 2 ... maybe, by this point, Brahms was less preoccupied with showing the world that he could cope with Beethoven! It’s gentler and more easy-going. Perhaps you could say that it feels more like a late composition. But there are some astonishing things going on ... the Mozartian opening theme; the way the first movement is quoted in the last movement; the prominence given to the viola in the third movement. The work’s basic character is friendly, but it has lots of interesting, audacious ideas.

“In all this, Brahms marries a Romantic spirit with the structure and forms of Classicism. There is an almost symphonic approach in the writing, but at the same time the quartets remain concise ... and imbued with a sense of warmth, immediacy, friendship and love – a feeling of Gemütlichkeit – that is interwoven and combined with a more spiritual, timeless beauty. There’s an eternity of line in the slow movements. It is music that embraces you, but it also music that has a higher perspective and which feels very complete.”

“As the excellent German group the Artemis remind us, the C minor is the composer at his most compelling and passionate, with complex, pulsating cross-rhythms, daring changes of key and expressive melodies. The later, more playful B flat also receives a fine performance, at once dynamic and subtly flexible.” Sunday Times, 20th September 2015

“the Artemis give us a Brahms of and for our time, inevitably informed by their work on Bartok and Ligeti just as much as on late Beethoven…[they have] taste and sense in abundance, and we could count ourselves very lucky to hear nowadays a performance of the C minor Symphony that matched this recording for its urgency and discretion of response.” Gramophone Magazine, October 2015

“The emotional palette is broad: surging intensity is balanced emotionally by tenderness, delicate sensitivity, and…even by touches of humour. But the balance is architectural too. It may be a slightly partial view of Brahms, but it's hard to deny that the cap fits, that performances in which this music speaks so effectively and so consistently are infrequent, and that questions of whether either work represents 'real' quartet writing have rarely seemed less relevant.” BBC Music Magazine, December 2015

GGramophone Awards 2016

Finalist - Chamber

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - October 2015

Erato - 2564612663



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Vivaldi: The Four Seasons

Vivaldi: The Four Seasons


The Four Seasons

Bassoon Concerto, RV 501 in B flat major 'La notte'

Peter Wheelan (bassoon)

Bassoon Concerto, RV 496 in G minor

Peter Wheelan (bassoon)

Concerto For Violin In Tromba Marina, Strings & Continuo In G, RV 311

Concerto For Violin In Tromba Marina, Strings & Continuo In D, RV 221

Adrian Chandler (director/violin)

La Serenissima

Adrian Chandler and his period-instrument ensemble La Serenissima celebrate their 21st anniversary with a vibrant and original recording of the most popular piece of classical music of all time, Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons. Also included are virtuoso concertos for bassoon and the violin in tromba marina, an instrument used in Vivaldi’s day that Ade has had specially constructed for a selection of world-premiere recordings.

Adrian Chandler, who founded the period-instrument ensemble La Serenissima twenty-one years ago, has produced a dozen enlightening, acclaimed and award-winning albums for Avie. He has made world-premiere recordings of rediscovered works by Vivaldi and his 17th-century Italian contemporaries. He consistently applies a unique touch that combines erudition with approachability.

After many years of anticipation, Chandler turns his attention to the touchstone of Vivaldi's concerto output, The Four Seasons. As one has come to expect, he brings something unique to an interpretation brimming with vitality and originality. He has created his own, new edition based on the only surviving manuscript of these works.

Putting this most popular of classical works into context, Chandler rounds out the recording with Vivaldi concertos for bassoon, including the famous La Notte, and world-premiere recordings of two concertos for the violin in tromba marina, a hitherto obsolete instrument that was used during Vivaldi's lifetime, and that he has helped to recreate and bring back to life for 21st century music lovers.

“an intensely dramatic account that will add spice to what has for many listeners perhaps come to resemble a dreary domestic relationship…[all] are realised in vivid colours through the agency not of gimmicky extremes of tempo and overly percussive effects but through an intelligent, imaginative approach to bowing, articulation and ornamentation” Gramophone Magazine, October 2015

GGramophone Awards 2016

Shortlisted - Baroque Instrumental

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - October 2015

Building a Library

Also Recommended - September 2016

BBC Music Magazine

Concerto Choice

Avie - AV2344



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The Romantic Cello Concerto, Vol. 7: Fitzenhagen & Tchaikovsky

The Romantic Cello Concerto, Vol. 7: Fitzenhagen & Tchaikovsky


Cello Concerto No. 1 in B minor, Op. 2

Concerto for Cello and Orchestra No. 2 in A minor, Op. 4

Ballade 'Concertstück', Op. 10

Resignation 'Ein geistliches Lied ohne Worte', Op. 8


Variations on a Rococo Theme, Op. 33

arr. Wilhelm Fitzenhagen

The music of Wilhelm Fitzenhagen bursts into the Hyperion catalogue with two triumphant cello concertos, a couple of other original works, and his (in)famous version of the Tchaikovsky Rococo Variations. Ace cellist Alban Gerhardt presides.

“Vital exuberance - the sort one usually associates only with a live recording - is matched by playing of lyrical grace. Once you have these in place and an orchestral partnership of utter conviction, it is hard to see how Fitzhagen's concertos can have been ignored for so long.” Gramophone Magazine, October 2015

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - October 2015

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Hyperion - The Romantic Cello Concerto - CDA68063


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Valentin Silvestrov: To Thee We Sing

Valentin Silvestrov: To Thee We Sing

Sacred Choral Works



Kārlis Rūtentāls (tenor)

Cherubic Song (from Liturgical Chants)

Kārlis Rūtentāls (tenor)

Alleluia (from Liturgical Chants)

Ieva Ezeriete (soprano), Dace Strautmane (contralto), Kārlis Rūtentāls (tenor)

O Holy God (from Liturgical Chants)

Ave Maria (from Liturgical Chants)

Kārlis Rūtentāls (tenor)


Ieva Ezeriete (soprano), Agata Burkina (soprano), Kārlis Rūtentāls (tenor)

Sacred Chants (2)

Sacred Songs (2)

Agata Burkina (soprano), Rūdolfs Bērtiņš (tenor)

Christmas Lullabies (2)

Ieva Ezeriete (soprano), Agata Burkina (soprano)

Latvian Radio Choir, Sigvards Klava

Ukrainian composer Valentin Silvestrov (b.1937) is an important contemporary voice in vocal music. In this new release, Silvestrov’s hauntingly beautiful vocal works are performed by the Latvian Radio Choir under their director Sigvards Kļava.

During his artistic career, Silvestrov has explored a number of musical styles and techniques, such as avant-guard, post-modernism, neo-classicism, dodecaphony, aleatoric writing and pointillism. The fall of the Soviet Union, however, allowed Silvestrov to eventually compose spiritual works, inspired and influenced by his love of the Russian Orthodox Church music which Silvestrov imbues with his own unique sound and bursts of surprising harmonic moves.

Silvestrov’s compositions are invested with the composer’s own unique personality, musical sensibility and sense of beauty.

“The Latvian Radio Choir under Sigvards Klava sing, as expected, with a scintillating beauty. None of this programme…could be labelled technically easy. Fortunately the singers' intonation, balance and blend are absolutely first-rate…more please!” Gramophone Magazine, October 2015

“one of the finest discs I've ever heard...The basses of Sigvards Kļava's Latvian Radio Choir deserve particular praise - the notoriously sepulchral bottom B flat of Rachmaninov's All-Night Vigil pales into insignificance next to some of Silvestrov's profundo lines, and the combined effect of this, lusciously rich harmonies and some subtle echo effects is electrifying.” David Smith, Presto Classical, 18th December 2015

Presto Discs of 2015


GGramophone Awards 2016

Shortlisted - Contemporary

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - October 2015

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The Call: More Choral Classics from St John’s

The Call: More Choral Classics from St John’s


Give us the wings of faith


Missa brevis: Gloria

Guest, D:

For the fallen

Harris, W:

Holy is the True Light


A Spotless Rose


Greater Love Hath No Man


Hear My Prayer

Ave Maria, Op. 23 No. 2

Panufnik, R:

The Call

Alison Martin (harp)


I was glad

My soul, there is a country (No. 1 from Songs of Farewell)


arr. Elgar, transcribed Joseph Wicks


O salutaris hostia


Beati quorum via, Op. 38 No. 3

Te deum in B flat


Song for Athene

The pieces brought together on this CD range widely, from ceremonial works associated with affairs of state to intimate compositions addressing moments of great personal significance. Two of the three pieces by Parry best exemplify this contrast: if I was glad – written for the coronation of Edward VII and premiered in chaotic circumstances – fits into the former category, ‘My soul, there is a country’ (from Songs of Farewell) – composed in the year of his death – belongs in the latter. The composers are similarly diverse. They include an English composer of Polish extraction (Panufnik), an Italian who spent most of his life in Paris (Rossini), an Irish and a German composer who, in their different ways, became leading lights in English music (Stanford and Mendelssohn).

However, all the works recorded here have one thing in common: they are all considered quintessential to the Anglican choral tradition of yesterday and today.

“Anybody with deep affection for the more noble anthems of the Anglican tradition will need no excuse to grab a copy of this tasty selection, especially so when it features performances of such tasteful restraint…the unfolding of Holy is the true light is perhaps the most magical moment on a disc which offers, in truth, 75 minutes of utter aural sublimity.” Gramophone Magazine, October 2015

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - October 2015

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Dutilleux: Métaboles, L'arbre des songes & Symphony No. 2 "Le double"

Dutilleux: Métaboles, L'arbre des songes & Symphony No. 2 "Le double"



L'Arbre des songes (Concerto for violin and orchestra)

Augustin Hadelich (violin)

Symphony No. 2 'Le Double'

Following the Seattle Symphony’s Grammy-nominated Dutilleux disc is the second installment in the Symphony’s venture to record a complete survey of the orchestral music of the great French composer. This time Ludovic Morlot and his musicians turn their attention to Dutilleux’s most well-known and exciting orchestral work – Métaboles. Augustin Hadelich joins for an extraordinarily poetic performance of the violin concerto, L’arbre des songes, and the disc is completed by a riveting live performance of the Symphony No. 2, all in the spectacular acoustics of Seattle’s Benaroya Hall.With naturalistic imaging, depth of field and dynamic range, these recordings have been engineered to audiophile standards and aim to capture as realistically as possible the sound of the orchestra performing on the Benaroya Hall stage. Digital content will be available in stereo, 96k 24-bit high resolution and 5.1 surround sound.

“[Morlot] opts for a woolier and more pliant (for which don't read softcore) mode of attack. Intuition tells me that Dutilleux would have gravitated towards [this] approach…veins of orchestra perspective are opened up [and Morlot] evokes the thrill of ears discovering orchestral vistas and architecture in the moment.” Gramophone Magazine, October 2015

“The highlight of this Seattle disc is undoubtedly the violin playing of Augustin Hadelich in L'arbre des songes…the warm recording, with some three seconds of echo, suits this work well, as it does the Second Symphony. Here again Ludovic Morlot draws excellent playing from the orchestra” BBC Music Magazine, December 2015 ****

GGramophone Awards 2016

Finalist - Orchestral

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - October 2015

Seattle Symphony Media - SSM1007



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Tchaikovsky: Iolanta

Tchaikovsky: Iolanta

Olessa Golovneva (Iolanta), Alexander Vinogradov (René), Andrei Bondarenko (Robert), Dmytro Popov (Vaudémont), Vladislav Sulimsky (Ibn-Hakia), John Heuzenroeder (Alméric), Marc-Olivier Oetterli (Bertrand), Dalia Schaechter (Marta), Justyna Samborska, Marta Wryk (Laura)

Gürzenich Orchestra of Cologne, Dmitrij Kitajenko

The world premieres of Iolanta and The Nutcracker took place on 18 December 1892 at St. Petersburg’s Mariinsky Theatre. “The execution of both,” wrote the composer to his brother Anatoly the next day, “was magnificent, and that of the ballet perhaps too magnificent – its brilliance made one’s eyes tired.” Gustav Mahler conducted the first performance of the one-act opera outside Russia on 3 January 1893 in Hamburg and also directed the Viennese premiere of Iolanta on 22 March 1900.

“as a young innocent, Golovneva's Iolanta is preferable to the fuller, darker soprano of Netrebko…Vinogradov's soft-grained bass is rock-solid and on magnificent form…Popov is in mellifluous, heady voice as Vaudémont…a top-drawer recording of an increasingly significant opera.” Gramophone Magazine, October 2015

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - October 2015

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Wagner: Das Rheingold

Wagner: Das Rheingold

Michael Volle (Wotan), Tomasz Konieczny (Alberich), Burkhard Ulrich (Loge), Elisabeth Kulman (Fricka), Herwig Pecoraro (Mime), Peter Rose (Fasolt), Eric Halfvarson (Fafner), Annette Dasch (Freia), Janina Baechle (Erda), Christian van Horn (Donner), Benjamin Bruns (Froh), Mirella Hagen (Woglinde), Stefanie Irányi (Wellgunde), Eva Vogel (Flosshilde)

Symphonie-Orchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, Simon Rattle

The general consensus over the past few years among music critics and the public at large is that everything the conductor Sir Simon Rattle touches "turns to gold". Everything with the exception of the music dramas of Richard Wagner, that is! The oft-repeated assertion here is that Rattle and Wagner do not go together, even though no good reasons have been furnished to support this. The third collaboration between Rattle and the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, together with a team of the very best Wagner singers, now conclusively proves the opposite. This concert performance of "Das Rheingold", the first opera in Wagner's mighty tetralogy "The Ring of the Nibelung", was performed live in the Herkulessaal of the Munich Residenz on April 24 and 25, 2015, and has now been brought out by BR KLASSIK on two CDs only a few months after the event.

No question about it: Rattle is a master of the Rheingold score, which is certainly a tricky one due to its closely interwoven ensemble of soloists and to the fact that the orchestra does not accompany events and flow round them in a lofty manner, as in other Wagnerian music dramas, but is also sometimes quite openly rebellious! Rattle has already impressively proven his expertise at handling the music of Wagner on two occasions: in 2004 in London, together with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, and in 2006 in Berlin with the Berlin Philharmonic. The fact that he is more inclined to conduct this "evil conversation piece, almost a black comedy" (as Robert Braunmüller described "Das Rheingold" in the Munich "Abendzeitung") with light and sometimes even dance-like inflections, and that he has the orchestra play with a great deal of colour and detail, shakes a little of the supercilious Wagnerian dust from this work, without in any way compromising the glittering brilliance of the musical sound. The soloists – all of them very good without exception - blend in completely with Rattle's fine interpretation, which is very much in the spirit of the drama.

Audiences and critics alike were unanimously delighted by the Munich concert performances. Even more than in the small Herkulessaal, which already enabled more intimate insights into the structures of the score and of the aesthetic created by Rattle, this listening experience on CD makes it clear "just how radically the avant-garde artist Richard Wagner composed in every single bar" (Reinhard J. Brembeck, "Sueddeutsche Zeitung").

“His conducting is fast, as Wagner preferred and intensely dynamic but he avoids Boulez's glibness, illuminating the drama of the moment in a mercurial, almost Solti-like fashion...he seems to have encouraged his singers to act - with a vengeance...for sheer dramatic dash and glowing orchestral sound this is remarkable, promising an exciting Ring to come.” BBC Music Magazine, January 2016 *****

GGramophone Awards 2016

Shortlisted - Opera

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - October 2015

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