Gramophone Magazine Editor's Choice

November 2016

Disc of the Month

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Bach, J S: French Suites Nos. 1-6, BWV812-817

Awards:

Gramophone Awards 2017

Winner - Instrumental

Gramophone Magazine

Disc of the Month - November 2016

BBC Music Magazine

Disc of the month

Label:

DG

Catalogue No:

4796565

Discs:

2

Release date:

4th Nov 2016

Barcode:

0028947965657

Length:

91 minutes

Medium:

CD (download also available)

Gramophone Award Winners

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Bach, J S: French Suites Nos. 1-6, BWV812-817


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Murray Perahia has always felt a great affinity with the music of Bach, having played some of his pieces since childhood and been powerfully influenced by a performance he attended at the age of fifteen of the St Matthew Passion conducted by Pablo Casals. He also found solace in studying the composer on a daily basis during a period in which illness prevented him from playing. He sees the French Suites as “Bach on the highest level,” adding, “I don’t think Bach wrote one note that didn’t have wider meanings and that wasn’t to be tackled with all one’s heart and soul.” His recording revels in the music’s diverse moods, from melancholy tenderness to out-and-out joy, and brings out every nuance of its elegant phrasing and expressive dance rhythms.

Johann Sebastian Bach: French Suite No.1 In D Minor, BWV 812

1. Allemande

2. Courante

3. Sarabande

4. Menuet I-II

5. Gigue

Johann Sebastian Bach: French Suite No.2 In C Minor, BWV 813

1. Allemande

2. Courante

3. Sarabande

4. Air

5. Menuet I-II

6. Gigue

Johann Sebastian Bach: French Suite No.3 In B Minor, BWV 814

1. Allemande

2. Courante

3. Sarabande

4. Anglaise

5. Menuet I-II

6. Gigue

Johann Sebastian Bach: French Suite No.4 In E Flat, BWV 815

1. Allemande

2. Courante

3. Sarabande

4. Gavotte I-II

5. Menuet

6. Air

7. Gigue

Johann Sebastian Bach: French Suite No.5 In G, BWV 816

1. Allemande

2. Courante

3. Sarabande

4. Gavotte

5. Bourrée

6. Loure

7. Gigue

Johann Sebastian Bach: French Suite No.6 In E, BWV 817

1. Allemande

2. Courante

3. Sarabande

4. Gavotte

5. Polonaise

6. Petit Menuet

7. Bourrée

8. Gigue

Gramophone Magazine

November 2016

“As we expect from Perahia, everything sounds natural and inevitable. Ego doesn’t come into it: rather, he acts as a conduit between composer and audience with a purity that few can emulate...I’ve only had this recording for five days but I predict a long and happy future in its company.”

Financial Times

4th November 2016

“In Perahia’s hands every note of the music sings and its siren beauty is surely impossible to resist.”

BBC Music Magazine

Christmas 2016

*****

“Perahia is unrivalled in coaxing a subtle dialogue in the dances that resort to the artful pared-back minimalism of the two-part invention. There’s nowhere to hide and Perahia’s effortless variety of touch, love of teasing voice-leading, and conversational affability would have it no other way…this is a set that gets ever more persuasive on repeated listening”

New York Times

15th December 2016

“No recording I have heard these past months has sounded as instantly, undefinably right...The piano’s tone is pristine, the articulation clean, the balance between the hands immaculate, the overall tenor both spirited and rapt.”

Presto Classical

Chris O'Reilly

16th December 2016

“Perahia’s innate musicianship, completely free of any mannerisms or distractions, demands repeated listening.”

Sunday Times

8th January 2017

“When performed as they are here...these works yield nothing in interest and charm...Perahia’s playing is a constant delight — and by not eschewing the sustaining pedal, he paradoxically makes the piano sound more harpsichord-like.”

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Berg: Wozzeck

Berg: Wozzeck


Christian Gerhaher (Wozzeck), Brandon Jovanovich (Drum Major), Mauro Peter (Andres), Wolfgang Ablinger-Sperrhacke (Captain), Lars Woldt (Doctor) & Gun-Brit Barkmin (Marie)

Chor der Oper Zurich & Philharmonia Zurich, Fabio Luisi (conductor) & Andreas Homoki (stage director)

The soldier Wozzeck flits through a world that he is unable to decipher. The Doctor torments him with absurd medical experiments; the Captain humiliates and ridicules him. And Wozzeck’s lover, Marie, with whom he has a child, cuckolds him with the Drum Major. Wozzeck becomes a murderer, stabbing Marie to death.

Georg Büchner’s drama fragment, on which Alban Berg based his first opera, is an unflinching case study of social injustice and human suffering. But it is also a grotesque piece that thrives on exaggeration – and in which only a fine line separates the unfathomable from the ridiculous. Accordingly, director Andreas Homoki forgoes all realism. His nightmarishly radical production is inspired by puppet theatre. Christian Gerhaher’s role début as Wozzeck can only be described as sensational: his capacity for vocal and dramatic subtlety is simply breath‐taking. At the rostrum of the Philharmonia Zurich, Fabio Luisi explores both the expressionistic and the more intimate aspects, reminiscent of chamber music, in Berg’s seminal score.

Picture Format: NTSC 16:9, Full HD

Sound Formats: DTS HD Master Audio, PCM Stereo

Region Code: 0 (worldwide)

Running Time: 100:58 min

Disc Format: BD 25

Subtitles: German (original), French, English, Japanese, Korean

“This is a finely honed production that follows its premise to an absurdist conclusion with slick theatricality and dispassionate zeal...All sentimentalism is banished here. So, largely, is the opera’s plea for justice and compassion. It is left to Christian Gerhaher’s Wozzeck to fight that battle, which he does with formidable diction and great lyrical beauty, offering, where he can, a still centre in the tumult.” Gramophone Magazine, November 2016

“While the Lieder-like beauty of Gerhaher’s singing Is matchless – he can act too – this is no star vehicle. It is ensemble work of the highest order…the relationships are brilliantly drawn, and the murder of Marie is more shocking for its surrealism. The string and woodwind solos are incisive, and the blossoming of the orchestral interludes as directed by Luisi is almost indecently lovely” BBC Music Magazine, Christmas 2016 *****

“This is a triumph – gripping and moving. The performance of Christian Gerhaher is outstanding, but there is also much else to admire and recommend.” MusicWeb International, October 2016

“Something of a triumph for all concerned.” Opera, May 2017

GGramophone Awards 2017

Winner - Opera

GGramophone Magazine

DVD/Blu-ray of the Month - November 2016

BBC Music Magazine Awards 2017

DVD/Blu-ray Winner

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In War & Peace

In War & Peace

Harmony Through Music


Handel:

Scenes of horror (from Jephtha)

Svegliatevi nel core (from Giulio Cesare)

Pensieri, voi mi tormentate! (from Agrippina)

Lascia ch'io pianga (from Rinaldo)

Augeletti che cantate (from Rinaldo)

Crystal streams in murmurs flowing: Susanna

Da tempeste il legno infranto (from Giulio Cesare)

Jommelli:

Sprezza il furor del vento (from Attila Regolo)

Par che di Giubilo (from Attilio Regolo)

Leo:

Prendi quel ferro, o barbaro! (from Andromaca)

Monteverdi:

Illustratevi, o cieli (from Il ritorno di Ulisse in patria)

Purcell:

They tell us that your mighty powers, Z630

When I am laid in earth (from Dido and Aeneas)

O lead me to some peaceful gloom (from Bonduca or The British Heroine, Z574)

Why should men quarrel? (from The Indian Queen, Z630)


Watch or read our exclusive interview with Joyce DiDonato about the project here.

“Perhaps my most personal project to date,” is how American mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato describes In War and Peace: Harmony through Music. Her ambitions for this collection of arias from Baroque operas are substantial. Surrounded as we are by instability, she hopes it will help us find an answer to a vitally important question: “In the midst of chaos, how do you find peace?”

Her aim is to “steer conversation and discourse … to help all of us find peace in our lives in a dynamic way … As I have tried to convey in this selection of music, the power to bravely tip the scales towards peace lies firmly within every single one of us.”

DiDonato, an opera singer who certainly does not live in an ivory tower, was motivated to assemble the programme after the terrorist attacks in Paris in November 2015. She had been planning an exploratory album with an emphasis on rare arias, but in the light of the tragic events she rethought her approach, giving it wider and deeper implications.

In War and Peace: Harmony through Music was recorded with Il Pomo d’Oro under its principal conductor Maxim Emelyanychev. The programme comprises 15 arias divided into two sections: ‘War’ and ‘Peace’. Both contain music by Purcell and Handel – including, to close ‘War’, Dido’s dignified, but searing lament from Dido and Aeneas and Almirena’s haunting and heartbreaking ‘Lascia ch’io pianga’ from Rinaldo. An excerpt from Monteverdi’s Il ritorno d’Ulisse is included in ‘Peace’, which concludes with Cleopatra’s spirited and defiantly optimistic ‘Da tempeste il legno infranto’ from Giulio Cesare.

A further aria from Giulio Cesare is the bonus track for the album; it is Sesto’s touching apostrophe to hope, ‘Cara speme’, which Joyce DiDonato sings unforgettably on a floating whisper of breath.

In her search for peace and harmony, the American singer did not entirely desert her musicological quest, and the album also contains no fewer than three world premiere recordings: a ‘War’ aria from Andromaca by the Neapolitan composer Leonardo Leo (1694-1744), and two ‘Peace’ arias, from the operas Attila and Attilio Regolo, by another Neapolitan, Niccolò Jommelli (1714-1774).

When Baroque opera was at its height, the highly stylised art form was famously described by the English writer Dr Samuel Johnson as “an exotic and irrational entertainment which has always been combated, and always has prevailed”. It is nearly three centuries since he made that judgement, but opera has continued to prevail – by impassioning performers and thrilling and moving audiences: nothing rivals it in giving intense, compelling expression to matters of life, love and death. Over recent decades, opera of the Baroque era has gained a new and vigorous life, with frequent revivals of works by such masters as Handel, Monteverdi, Vivaldi and Purcell, and the rediscovery of operas by composers who had fallen into obscurity.

Fuelled by these arias, Joyce DiDonato is fervently committed the cause of engaging the hearts and minds of music-lovers around the world. As she leads the way forward, long may opera – and peace – prevail.

“DiDonato brings technical security and a variety of tonal colours to each aria. Il Pomo d’Oro offer bristling accompaniment under principal conductor Maxim Emelyanychev. Purists may quibble here and there, but it’s hard to resist DiDonato’s heartfelt message.” The Guardian, 30th October 2016 ****

“DiDonato is always a force to be reckoned with and there is plenty of dramatic gusto here, as well as vocal fireworks...I found her at her most fiery and persuasive — the same goes for the orchestra — in the three world-premiere recordings, taken from Niccolò Jommelli’s Attilio Régolo and Leonardo Leo’s Andromaca.” The Times, 4th November 2016 ***

“In War & Peace’ finds DiDonato back on Baroque ground for the first time in a while, and it’s a joyful musical homecoming. ...Drama, as ever with DiDonato, is everything. Ornamentation serves narrative first, ego second.” Gramophone Magazine, November 2016

“[In 'Lascia ch’io pianga'] she washes just enough color out of her voice to achieve a purity that enhances the composer’s signature formula of gut-wrenching despair set to music of extraordinary beauty...DiDonato also can rage with the best, hurling words like knives in an aria from Leonardo Leo’s long-forgotten “Andromaca.”” Washington Post, 16th November 2016

“DiDonato kicks up a storm in the war arias and soothes the spirit with lambent tone when she turns to peace. The American mezzo is at the peak of her career. This disc is worth hearing for her radiant singing in Handel’s Susanna alone.” Financial Times, 4th November 2016

“Though the top of her voice is wiry under pressure, her coloratura is tightly sprung, her diction is flawless, and her phrasing of the often underrated poetry is sympathetic and sophisticated…Il Pomo d’Oro plays with Handelian zip under its new director, Maxim Emelyanychev” BBC Music Magazine, Christmas 2016 ****

“[DiDonato is] a singer not afraid to let simplicity speak for itself…she takes her programme beyond the obvious binary opposition into a series of contrasts and emotional conflicts…[her] vocal attack is fearless, her range of vocal colours immense – not many singers would risk such extremes of dynamics and manipulation of vibrato without sounding mannered, but somehow she pulls it off” Opera Now, January 2017 *****

Presto Discs of 2016

Finalist

GGramophone Awards 2017

Winner - Recital

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - November 2016

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Erato - 9029592846

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Mozart: Piano Concertos, K.413-15

Mozart: Piano Concertos, K.413-15


Mozart:

Piano Concerto No. 11 in F major, K413

Piano Concerto No. 12 in A major, K414

Piano Concerto No. 13 in C major, K415


In January 1783 Mozart advertised in the Vienna press "the publication of three new, recently completed piano concertos", which could even be played with quartet accompaniment – thus enabling him to reach a wider public. In similar vein, he told his father that they were "very brilliant and pleasing to the ear . . . Here and there only connoisseurs will derive satisfaction from them – yet in such a way that the non-connoisseur will also be pleased, without knowing why."

It’s a fair bet that these dazzling performances by Kristian Bezuidenhout and the Freiburger Barockorchester will meet with the same unanimous approval.

“The rounded tone, singing legato in slow movements and crisp articulation he coaxes from the instrument is far removed from the honky-tonk sounds of earlier attempts at period performances of the concertos...This well-known music sounds spontaneous and freshly conceived.” Sunday Times, 21st August 2016

“a delightfully spirited performance from Kristian Bezuidenhout … this is the very opposite of ‘museum piece Mozart’, so alive and responsive” Record Review, 26th August 2016

“Bezuidenhout is an imaginative and engaging soloist, getting a variety of colours from his fortepiano.” Financial Times, 26th August 2016

“Though listed as director, Goltz is often closer to that of conductor, paying assiduous attention to instrumental balance, supporting or asserting as required. Only in the first movement of K414 is he a touch prosaic; otherwise he grants Bezuidenhout (who also plays continuo and uses the moderator for variations in tonal colour) the space needed for his searching interpretations. Every cadenza and lead-in is by Mozart; every slow movement is played with feeling. Very fine indeed” Classical Ear, 14th October 2016

“There’s plenty of interpretative freedom...as the soloist takes Mozart’s scores as a starting point rather than as the gospel handed down from above...he is superbly responsive to the music’s high spirits and to the possibilities inherent in these scores.” Gramophone Magazine, November 2016

“These are dazzling and at times unusually searching performances.” BBC Music Magazine, December 2016

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - November 2016

BBC Music Magazine

Concerto Choice - December 2016

Harmonia Mundi Bezuidenhout Mozart Series - HMC902218

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Fux & Kerll: Requiems

Fux & Kerll: Requiems


Fux:

Kaiserrequiem

Kerll:

Missa pro defunctis


Vox Luminis, Lionel Meunier

Read Presto's complete review of this disc here

This recording presents two Austrian requiems of totally different character. Johann Joseph Fux wrote his Requiem in 1720 for the funeral of Eleonora von Neuburg, widow of the Holy Roman Emperor Leopold II. Composed by a musician reputed for his theoretical skill, it impresses with the quality of the polyphonic writing combined with a very rich instrumental fabric comprising cornetts, trombones and bassoon in addition to violins, instruments also benefiting from concertante interventions. This requiem was played on numerous occasions for official ceremonies, including again for the funeral of Karl VI in 1740. On the other hand, Johann Caspar Kerll’s version is presented in a much more intimist way. As he himself stated in the preface to the edition, this requiem was written «for my soul’s peace». It is scored for an ensemble of five voices backed up by a quartet of viols. In a more archaic style, its intense emotion is doubtless influenced by the music of his Roman master, Giacomo Carissimi.

“Later Requiems wallow in grief at times or stray into the histrionic for the lurid scenes of apocalyptic judgement in the Dies Irae, but Kerll does neither...Fux may have been among Kerll’s pupils, and his Requiem definitely shares something of Kerll’s pensive mood, but there are certainly differences in style; Fux makes far greater use of poignant dissonances throughout his Requiem.” Presto Classical, 12th August 2016

“The excellent vocal ensemble Vox Luminis goes from strength to strength with its deftly inflected, pure, rather un-English singing.” The Guardian, 21st August 2016 ****

“Vox Luminis’s consummate mastery of polyphonic textures, plangent sonorities and contoured phrasing is profoundly beautiful; the five soloists and five additional ‘ripieno’ singers declaim text with clarity and decorum....Never anything less than sublime.” Gramophone Magazine, November 2016

“No questioning the evidence here of the outstanding quality of Vox Luminis – nor of the talents of individual singers from the ensemble who tackle the plentiful solo passages which both works throw up...the sound is immaculate, capturing the sense of space the venues offer but with detail never obscured.” Early Music Today *****

Presto Disc of the Week

12th August 2016

Presto Discs of 2016

Finalist

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - November 2016

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CPE Bach: Flute Concerti

CPE Bach: Flute Concerti


Bach, C P E:

Flute Concerto in A minor, Wq. 166 (H430)

Flute Concerto in G major, Wq. 169 (H445)

Flute Concerto in D minor, Wq. 22 (H425)


Emmanuel Pahud (flute) & Trevor Pinnock (harpsichord & conductor)

Kammerakademie Potsdam

Emmanuel Pahud returns to music written for ‘The Flute King’ with these three concertos by Carl Philipp Emmanuel Bach (1714-88), who spent nearly 30 years on the musical staff at the court of Frederick the Great, a powerful monarch and a highly accomplished flautist. Pahud, the long-standing principal flautist of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, is joined by Kammerakademie Potsdam, directed from the harpsichord by Trevor Pinnock.

Several works by CPE Bach feature on Emmanuel Pahud’s Warner Classics album The Flute King, comprising music written for Frederick, which was released in 2011 to this response from International Record Review: “Pahud can equally lay claim to the title of 'The Flute King' … [He] demonstrates a flexibility of phrase that arises naturally from the architectonics of the music rather than being imposed on it by a 'personality'. Despite the modern flute, his ornamentation and articulation are thoroughly idiomatic and chime with his period-instrument collaborators' crispness of attack and cleanly expressive shifts in colour.”

All cadenzas are by CPE Bach

“Urgent, direct, effortlessly virtuoso to the nth degree, always lyrical and awash with conviction, these are readings that will keep you on your toes...It’s also worth parking any sniffiness over modern flutes, for Pahud can produce as dulcet a tone as anybody on a period instrument could.” Gramophone Magazine, November 2016

“If CPE Bach’s two extremes, of unyielding storminess and emotive lyricism, prove ultimately rather predictable, both Pahud and the tautly disciplined Kammerakademie Potsdam strings under Trevor Pinnock provide an excellent account of this new mid-18th century musical language” BBC Music Magazine, January 2017 ****

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The Sun Most Radiant: Music from the Eton Choirbook, Vol. 4

The Sun Most Radiant: Music from the Eton Choirbook, Vol. 4


Browne, J:

Salve Regina I

Salve Regina II

Horwood, W:

Gaude Flore Virginali

Stratford:

Magnificat


On 'The Sun Most Radiant', their fourth volume of music from the Eton Choirbook, The Choir of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford and director Stephen Darlington give glorious performances of 15th-century English sacred music including first recordings of works by John Browne and William Horwood.

This collection of music from the Eton Choirbook, the vast collection of English sacred music from the early Renaissance, is the fourth in an acclaimed series by Stephen Darlington and The Choir of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford which has proved to be a thrilling encounter with the remarkable world of the liturgy of Eton College Chapel in the late 15th century. This sumptuous volume includes two first recordings: John Browne's second setting of the Salve Regina, and William Horwood's Gaude flore virginali. This music was firmly rooted in the daily devotional life of the College, appreciated by all and not just a worshipping élite. The boys and men of Christ Church Cathedral choir maintain this tradition with a special affinity for this glorious repertoire and deliver performances of unreserved commitment.

“The first [Salve Regina setting] contains glories enough, but the male-voice second possesses remarkable sensual richness and sense of destination. The performances of these, and of William Horwood’s Gaude Flore Virginali and a Magnificat by William, Monk of Stratford, are excellent.” Sunday Times, 2nd October 2016

“With this instalment of music from the Eton Choirbook, the Choir of Christ Church Cathedral sets out to rival The Sixteen’s five-volume anthology...Already it seems to me that they surpass it technically – which is remarkable considering the inevitable changes of personnel that time imposes on a choir with boy trebles – and interpretatively.” Gramophone Magazine, November 2016

“gloriously broad, magisterial readings of Browne’s two Salve Regina settings and other solemn delights by Horwood and William, Monk of Stratford, delivering the listener to the beating heart of late medieval Marian devotion” Choir & Organ, May 2017

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Avie Music from the Eton Choirbook - AV2359

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Ravel & Saint-Saëns: Piano Trios

Ravel & Saint-Saëns: Piano Trios


Ravel:

Piano Trio in A minor

Saint-Saëns:

Piano Trio No. 2 in E minor Op. 92


Fidelio Trio

The acclaimed Fidelio Trio make their Resonus debut with an exquisite recording of French piano trios – Camille Saint-Saëns’ large-scale Op. 92 second trio, and Maurice Ravel’s sole foray into the genre dating from 1914.

Coming off the back of a Royal Philharmonic Society Award nomination in 2016, this recording sees the trio expand on their unparalleled reputation for new music demonstrating the vast range of this brilliant chamber group’s abilities and talent.

“The Fidelio’s interpretation possesses admirable clarity and definition, polish and brio, qualities they bring also to a very different world of sound in the Ravel Trio. In both works their interpretative touch is secure, their rapport instinctive. Together with their eloquence and passion, this all adds up to something special.” Gramophone Magazine, November 2016

“The Fidelio Trio’s virtuosity is of a high order, with Mary Dullea throwing off the piano fireworks in the Ravel ‘Pantoum’ with splendid élan” BBC Music Magazine, January 2017 ****

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - November 2016

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Britten: A Midsummer Night's Dream

Britten: A Midsummer Night's Dream


Alfred Deller (Oberon), Jennifer Vyvyan (Tytania), Leonide Massine II (Puck), Kevin Platts (Cobweb), Robert McCutcheon (Mustardseed), Barry Ferguson (Moth), Michael Bauer (Peaseblossom), George Maran (Lysander), Thomas Hemsley (Demetrius), Marjorie Thomas (Hermia), April Cantelo (Helena), Forbes Robinson (Theseus), Johanna Peters (Hippolyta), Owen Brannigan (Bottom), Norman Lumsden (Quince), Peter Pears (Flute), David Kelly (Snug), Edward Byles (Snout), Joseph Ward (Starveling)

English Opera Group Orchestra, Benjamin Britten

World premiere, recorded in the Jubilee Hall, Aldeburgh, 11 June 1960 First ever release.

At first glance, Britten’s discography of his own operas leaves little to be desired. His recorded legacy covers practically his entire output in recordings under his own direction, with his favourite artists, produced to still-legendary standards. And yet, as magnificent as the official recordings are, many do not feature the singers who created important roles; and sometimes even when the interpretations do come from the source the published versions are from a few crucial years downstream. A Midsummer Night’s Dream is no exception. It was composed at breakneck speed for the reopening in 1960 of Aldeburgh’s Jubilee Hall, a tiny theatre by operatic standards, seating just over 300. It would soon move to the rather more capacious Covent Garden (and for that matter within the following year to Hamburg, Zurich, Berlin, Pforzheim, Milan, Vancouver, Gothenburg, Edinburgh, Schwetzingen and Tokyo) – finally reaching a commercial recording in 1966 under very different circumstances from those in which it was created. Perhaps the greatest single asset of the 1960 recording, though, is the chance to hear Alfred Deller’s very earliest performance as Oberon. Deller’s inclusion in the cast was one of Britten’s most original inspirations: nowadays counter-tenor roles are an essential part of the operatic palette in old and new music alike and gifted singers to sing them are plentiful, but just a few decades ago a counter-tenor was an exotic beast indeed. Sir Michael Tippett wrote of first hearing Deller’s voice: ‘In that moment the centuries rolled back’. For us, half a century and more already rolls back when we hear Deller in A Midsummer Night’s Dream: Deller’s voice is ironically now a historical phenomenon in itself.

Britten’s own interpretation of the opera would broaden over the years. Here the ink on the score is barely dry and some passages are unforgettably urgent: Oberon and Tytania’s opening duet has a compelling sweep, and the Act II quarrel of the lovers has an extra tinge of danger. The glorious choruses which end the second and third acts would certainly be given more time in later performances, but not always either to their benefit or to the advantage of the whole: ‘On the ground, sleep sound’ is all the more poignant if it, as here, never becomes static, and Puck’s epilogue can sound a little tacked-on if ‘Now until the break of day’ is allowed to wallow. Fortunately, there is no need to choose. We are all the richer for having two such distinct approaches to the opera in its early history at our disposal and since they both come direct from the composer himself, perhaps the not always helpful concept of a ‘definitive recording’ can usefully be called into question.

“The cast play as an ensemble with remarkable detail. Alfred Deller, especially, is in excellent voice as Oberon...though the playing is not immaculate, Britten leads his forces with tremendous rhythmic verve – even more than on the Decca recording.” Gramophone Magazine, November 2016

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Testament - SBT21515

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Berg: Wozzeck

Berg: Wozzeck


Christian Gerhaher (Wozzeck), Brandon Jovanovich (Drum Major), Mauro Peter (Andres), Wolfgang Ablinger-Sperrhacke (Captain), Lars Woldt (Doctor) & Gun-Brit Barkmin (Marie)

Chor der Oper Zurich & Philharmonia Zurich, Fabio Luisi (conductor) & Andreas Homoki (stage director)

The soldier Wozzeck flits through a world that he is unable to decipher. The Doctor torments him with absurd medical experiments; the Captain humiliates and ridicules him. And Wozzeck’s lover, Marie, with whom he has a child, cuckolds him with the Drum Major. Wozzeck becomes a murderer, stabbing Marie to death.

Georg Büchner’s drama fragment, on which Alban Berg based his first opera, is an unflinching case study of social injustice and human suffering. But it is also a grotesque piece that thrives on exaggeration – and in which only a fine line separates the unfathomable from the ridiculous. Accordingly, director Andreas Homoki forgoes all realism. His nightmarishly radical production is inspired by puppet theatre. Christian Gerhaher’s role début as Wozzeck can only be described as sensational: his capacity for vocal and dramatic subtlety is simply breath‐taking. At the rostrum of the Philharmonia Zurich, Fabio Luisi explores both the expressionistic and the more intimate aspects, reminiscent of chamber music, in Berg’s seminal score.

Picture Format: NTSC 16:9

Sound Formats: PCM Stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1

Region Code: 0 (worldwide)

Running Time: 100:58 min

Disc Format: DVD‐9

Subtitles: German (original), French, English, Japanese, Korean

“This is a triumph – gripping and moving. The performance of Christian Gerhaher is outstanding, but there is also much else to admire and recommend.” MusicWeb International, October 2016

“This is a finely honed production that follows its premise to an absurdist conclusion with slick theatricality and dispassionate zeal...All sentimentalism is banished here. So, largely, is the opera’s plea for justice and compassion. It is left to Christian Gerhaher’s Wozzeck to fight that battle, which he does with formidable diction and great lyrical beauty, offering, where he can, a still centre in the tumult.” Gramophone Magazine, November 2016

“While the Lieder-like beauty of Gerhaher’s singing Is matchless – he can act too – this is no star vehicle. It is ensemble work of the highest order…the relationships are brilliantly drawn, and the murder of Marie is more shocking for its surrealism. The string and woodwind solos are incisive, and the blossoming of the orchestral interludes as directed by Luisi is almost indecently lovely” BBC Music Magazine, Christmas 2016 *****

“Something of a triumph for all concerned.” Opera, May 2017

GGramophone Awards 2017

Winner - Opera

GGramophone Magazine

DVD of the Month - November 2016

BBC Music Magazine Awards 2017

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Vox Clara: Music by Gabriel Jackson

Vox Clara: Music by Gabriel Jackson


Jackson, Gabriel:

Vox clara ecce intonat

Seven Advent Antiphons

Herzliebster Jesu, was hast du verbrochen?

That wind blowing and that tide

Holy is the true light

Aria for Joel and Vicki

Cantate Domino

Confirma hoc Deus

Factus est repente

Missa Triueriensis


Luke Bond (organ), Joel Garthwaite (saxophone)

Truro Cathedral Choir, Christopher Gray

Read David's exclusive interview with Gabriel Jackson about the project here.

One of Britain’s foremost and most celebrated composers, Gabriel Jackson, joins with the critically-acclaimed Choir of Truro Cathedral, under its inspiring director, Christopher Gray, and saxophonist, Joel Garthwaite, to present a collection recent works for choir, saxophone, and organ. Fourteen pieces are receiving first recordings, including the opening work ‘Vox clara ecce intonat’, commissioned by St John’s College, Cambridge, in 2013, and other works written for the choirs of Westminster Abbey and Westminster Cathedral.

Seven new works were specifically written for Christopher Gray and the Truro Cathedral Choir, including That wind blowing and that tide for treble voices, saxophone, and organ, the result of a day’s workshop with Gabriel Jackson and the Cathedral choristers, and incorporating their musical ideas.

The Advent Antiphon setting O Clavis David was commissioned by Merton College, Oxford, in 2012. Christopher Gray subsequently asked Gabriel Jackson to compose settings of the remaining six ‘Great O’ antiphons of Advent for the Truro Cathedral Choir. The complete cycle of seven unaccompanied Antiphons were first performed at The Advent Service in Truro Cathedral in December 2014.

Other new works include a beautiful work for saxophone and organ, dedicated to saxophonist, Joel Garthwaite and his wife Vicky on the occasion of their marriage, and a Chorale Prelude for solo organ, composed for William Whitehead’s Orgelbüchlein Project. The disc also includes several earlier works written for Truro Cathedral Choir: the Magnificat and Nunc dimittis of 2001, and the Missa Triueriensus (‘Truro Mass’) of 2005, and Cantate Domino written for the Truro 125 celebrations in 2013.

Gabriel Jackson was born in Bermuda in 1962. After three years as a chorister at Canterbury Cathedral, he went on to study composition with Richard Blackford and with John Lambert at the Royal College of Music.

Particularly acclaimed for his choral works, his liturgical pieces are in the repertoires of most of Britain’s cathedral and collegiate choirs and he is a frequent collaborator with the leading professional groups of the world. His music is regularly performed, recorded and broadcast throughout Europe and the USA.

In 2003 Jackson won the liturgical prize at the inaugural British Composer Awards with O Doctor optime, and won two further prizes in the choral category with The Spacious Firmament in 2009 and Airplane Cantata in 2012. From 2010 to 2013 he was Associate Composer to the BBC Singers, producing a series of substantial pieces for the group.

“Jackson's work, with its allusions to Orthodox music, to the euphony (but not the prolixity) of Tavener and to Tudor manners, has an irresistible allure. Not a note is superfluous, the formal shaping is always elegant, and it's always written with the performers first in mind. In this selection of sacred pieces, Truro's fine singers engage touchingly with this creative generosity.” Sunday Times

“Jackson involved the choristers of Truro in the writing of a piece they were to sing as part of the cathedral’s first world war commemorations...along with other work for Truro’s exceptionally fine choir, including a stunning set of Advent Antiphons and a wonderfully lithe and sinuous Cantate Domino. Joel Garthwaite and Luke Bond sprinkle stardust over everything they play.” The Observer, 14th August 2016 ****

“What makes Vox Clara so special is that Jackson knows the building and choir intimately...The acoustics of the cathedral enhance the beauty of the instrument as the melodies fade away...and Bond, organist at Truro, is an extraordinary musician.” Hi-Fi News

“Jackson continues to produce sacred choral music of the highest invention, responding to commissions with vivid panache. His music can – in an instant – switch from richly layered ecstasy to direct, hushed intimacy, for example in the anthem Cantate Domino. It helps, of course, that as a former cathedral chorister he knows what makes singers tick.” Gramophone Magazine, November 2016

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - November 2016

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La Famille Forqueray: Portrait(s)

La Famille Forqueray: Portrait(s)


Justin Taylor (harpsichord)

Justin Taylor, the winner of the 2015 edition of the celebrated harpsichord competition of the Musica Antiqua Festival in Bruges (which has honoured some of the world’s finest players, including Scott Ross, Christophe Rousset, Pierre Hantaï, Benjamin Alard, and more recently Jean Rondeau), has recorded for Alpha Classics a programme of music by the Forqueray family: Antoine, Michel, Jean-Baptiste, Nicolas-Gilles . . . Those are just some of the first names of a great dynasty of French composers, gambists and organists. Antoine Forqueray, born in 1672, obtained the highly coveted position of Musicien de la Chambre du Roi. He subsequently had, shall we say, a complicated relationship with his son Jean-Baptiste, born in 1699 . . . Envious of the boy’s talent for the viol, Antoine had him imprisoned when he was just sixteen years old!

The recital, as well as painting a musical portrait of this unique family, also offers a chance to reflect on the issue of transcription. In fact, the suites performed here on the harpsichord were originally written for viola da gamba. The passage from one instrument to another, from one soundworld to another, sheds new light on the music and allows us to grasp its full originality.

“The disc opens appropriately with an unpretentious but nevertheless accomplished unmeasured Prelude...then follows it with a thoughtfully commanding performance of the first 1747 suite. Two aspects of his interpretation stand out: the breathtaking range and subtlety of his rubato and the unexpected slivers of rhetorical silence he deftly inserts.” Gramophone Magazine, November 2016

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - November 2016

A Musical Picture - up to 40% off

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