Gramophone Magazine Editor's Choice

January 2017

Disc of the Month

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Tchaikovsky & Sibelius Violin Concertos

Awards:

Presto Disc of the Week

18th November 2016

Gramophone Awards 2017

Finalist - Concerto

Gramophone Magazine

Disc of the Month - January 2017

BBC Music Magazine

Concerto Choice - April 2017

Label:

DG

Catalogue No:

4796038

Discs:

1

Release date:

4th Nov 2016

Barcode:

0028947960386

Length:

70 minutes

Medium:

CD (download also available)
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Tchaikovsky & Sibelius Violin Concertos


Sibelius:

Violin Concerto in D minor, Op. 47

Tchaikovsky:

Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 35


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Read Presto's complete review of this disc here, and Katherine's interview with Lisa Batiashvili here.

Lisa Batiashvili and Staatskapelle Berlin under Daniel Barenboim’s baton present an unforgettable version of Tchaikovsky’ and Sibelius’ violin concertos, two of the most beloved, passionate and demanding pieces for violin and orchestra

This album celebrates a happy and consolidated collaboration of one of the finest violinists of our times with one of the best orchestras of the world and the legendary pianist and conductor Daniel Barenboim

Ten years ago Daniel Barenboim initiated Berlin's open-air "State Opera for All" concert on the historic Bebelplatz. With more than 40,000 spectators each year, it attracts a larger audience than any other classical concert in Germany. In each of the last four years the guest soloist has been Lisa Batiashvili, who on each occasion has performed one of the world's great violin concertos: Beethoven, Brahms, Tchaikovsky in 2015 and in this year Sibelius

"I absolutely love Sibelius' violin concerto. I have the feeling it's really a part of my life and of my musical story, because so many things happened around this concerto in my life. The first most important was the final of the Sibelius Competition in 1995 where I performed this concerto for the first time with the orchestra." – Lisa Batiashvili

As the youngest-ever participant of the Sibelius Competition, Lisa immediately managed to win the second prize – a jump-start to a lightning career

As Lisa recalls, her musical partnership with Daniel Barenboim started over the phone: "Barenboim heard me for the first time during a television broadcast of the Sibelius Concerto with the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra. Shortly afterwards he rang me up to congratulate me and ask me if we could perform the piece together."

"I feel that this time with Barenboim and Staatskapelle Berlin, we brought a lot of new insights to it in some ways, even though the ground feeling for me for the piece will always stay the same." – Lisa Batiashvili This version of the Sibelius Concerto brings back a fresh approach to the famous score, by being as true and faithful to the score as possible, and by avoiding all the known and repeated traditional playing conventions and habits.

This album is the first ever recording of Tchaikovsky's famous and romantic violin concerto for both, Lisa Batiashvili and Daniel Barenboim. "It was a big surprise to me to hear that he had never recorded Tchaikovsky and it makes it even more special for me. I have the feeling that we really worked on it very closely, because that was my strongest experience with that piece – just to work it with him…"

The Guardian stated about Lisa's performance with Daniel Barenboim and Staatskapelle Berlin at the Royal Festival Hall in 2015: "Lisa Batiashvili was the ferocious soloist in Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto, intense in the first movement, luminous and heartfelt in the second, scintillating in the quickfire finale. It was a faultless performance, enthralling and electrifying."

Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky: Concerto For Violin And Orchestra In D Major, Op. 35, TH 59

1. Allegro moderato

2. Canzonetta. Andante

3. Finale. Allegro vivacissimo

Jean Sibelius: Concerto For Violin And Orchestra In D Minor, Op. 47

1. Allegro moderato - Molto moderato e tranquillo - Allegro molto - Moderato assai - Allegro moderato

2. Adagio di molto

3. Allegro ma non tanto

Presto Classical

James Longstaffe

18th November 2016

“These are both unbelievably impressive accounts of two cornerstones of the repertoire, and it's been a delight to listen to them. In a video interview talking about these pieces and this recording, Barenboim describes how Batiashvili's playing is full of emotion whilst avoiding sentimentality, and speaks straight to the heart: I couldn't agree more.”

Gramophone Magazine

January 2017

“Everything feels ‘in the moment’, a quality of improvisation like music created in the playing of it. Her musicality always comes with an element of surprise...This is concerto-playing of the very highest order...Every familiar phrase somehow manages to sound both authoritative and newly discovered...a delight from start to finish.”

The Guardian

24th November 2016

*****

“outstanding, insightful performances...The Sibelius soars and sings in the first movement, and dances in the finale with a rare agility. As for Barenboim, he gives the orchestral parts the depth and scope of symphonies: the climax of the first movement of the Sibelius will knock you flat.”

BBC Music Magazine

April 2017

“Batiashvili focuses on poetic intimacy in this deeply thoughtful performance.”

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Handel: Alcina & Tamerlano

Handel: Alcina & Tamerlano


Handel:

Alcina

Sandrine Piau (Alcina), Maite Beaumont (Ruggiero), Angelique Noldus (Bradamante), Sabina Puertolas (Morgana), Chloe Briot (Oberto), Daniel Behle (Oronte), Giovanni Furlanetto (Melisso), Edouard Higuet (Astolfo)

Tamerlano

Sophie Karthäuser (Asteria), Ann Hallenberg (Irene), Delphine Galou (Andronico), Christophe Dumaux (Tamerlano), Jeremy Ovenden (Bajazet), Nathan Berg (Leone), Caroline D'Haese (Zaida)


This Handelian diptych, the brainchild of the director Pierre Audi, was conceived in a style of great purity, right down to the costumes, the décors and the sumptuous chiaroscuro lighting. In order to replicate this aesthetic, reminiscent of Renaissance paintings, with the greatest possible fidelity, the performances, filmed in high resolution, are released on Blu-ray only.

Christophe Rousset and his orchestra convey exceptional fervour in this music, here served by the finest Handelian voices imaginable, foremost among them Sandrine Piau, who enjoyed a genuine triumph in the stage production. Nor can one forget the dramatic performance of Jeremy Ovenden in Tamerlano, or the beauty of the voices of Ann Hallenberg, Sophie Karthäuser, Delphine Galou and the countertenor Christophe Dumaux.

Total timing: 378’ 58

BD50, 16/9, stereo 5.1

Subtitles: Fr, Eng, Ger, Nl

“Audi’s post-Baroque stagings are often astutely deliberate in pacing and action, and are designed simply but artfully ...Rousset copiously sprinkles magical fairy dust in a fantastic performance of the music. From the first bow-stroke of the Overture, Les Talens Lyriques play with exceptional mastery of textures, moods and styles...This is essential viewing for those who take Handel as a dramatist seriously.” Gramophone Magazine, January 2017

“The Alcina cast is led by Sandrine Piau’s involving enchantress, who keeps Maite Beaumont’s outstanding Ruggiero in thrall…[Tamerlano is] beautifully sung by Christophe Dumaux…Karthäuser is spirited as the deposed Sultan’s daughter Asteria, with Delphine Galou lyrical and convincingly male as Andronico…Rousset draws vigorous playing from Les Talens Lyriques, whose tonal richness matches their virtuosity” BBC Music Magazine, February 2017 ****

GGramophone Magazine

DVD of the Month - January 2017

Blu-ray Disc

Region: all

A Musical Picture - up to 40% off

Alpha - ALPHA715

(Blu-ray - 2 discs)

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Rostropovich Encores

Rostropovich Encores


Chopin:

Étude Op. 25 No. 7 in C sharp minor

Debussy:

Nocturne et Scherzo

Préludes - Book 1: No. 12, Minstrels

Clair de Lune (from Suite Bergamasque)

Nocturne et Scherzo

Popper:

Dance of the Elves, Op. 39

Prokofiev:

Cinderella, Op. 87: Adagio of Cinderella and the Prince

Cinderella: Waltz-Coda (transc. M. Rostropovich)

The Love for Three Oranges: March

Rachmaninov:

Oriental Dance, Op. 2 No. 2

Ravel:

Vocalise-étude en forme de habanera

Rostropovich:

Humoresque, Op. 5

Moderato

Scriabin:

Étude Op. 8 No. 11 in B flat minor

Sinding:

Suite for Violin & Orchestra, Op. 10 'im alten Stil': Presto

Stravinsky:

Le Baiser de la Fée: Pas de Deux

Chanson Russe


Alban Gerhardt (cello) & Markus Becker (piano)

Read our exclusive interview with Alban Gerhardt about Rostropovich and the art of the encore here.

For the young Alban Gerhardt, Rostropovich was ‘a reason to become passionate about the cello’: in the notes accompanying this release he recalls being ‘blown away’ on first hearing Slava play live in Berlin. This splendid follow-up to Casals Encores sees Gerhardt paying homage to his great predecessor with an eclectic programme of shorter works, including two by Rostropovich himself.

“A genuinely thoughtful and engaging tribute recital, and a compelling partner to the Casals.” Gramophone Magazine, January 2017

“[Gerhardt] matches [Rostropovich] note-for-note, with a degree of eye-watering finesse that would have surely made his hero smile. The same can be said for the mercurial moto perpetuo of Christian Singing’s Presto and the student Rostropovich’s own hilarious, gravity-defying Humoresque (a killer encore)” BBC Music Magazine, February 2017 *****

“Gerhardt’s is an especially apt homage, showcasing the Russian master’s commitment to expanding his instrument’s repertoire and popularity, at the same time as celebrating his sense of fun. It’s not a bad vehicle for the sparky Gerhardt and pianist Markus Becker, either.” The Guardian, 16th February 2017 ****

“Gerhardt is at his very best here, more than a match for his mentor, ably matched by Becker and with superb Hyperion sound.” Classical Music, July 2017 *****

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - January 2017

Hyperion & Helios - up to 50% off

Hyperion - CDA68136

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Ehnes Quartet play Schubert & Sibelius

Ehnes Quartet play Schubert & Sibelius


Schubert:

String Quartet No. 14 in D minor, D810 'Death and the Maiden'

Sibelius:

String Quartet in D minor, Op. 56 'Voces Intimae'


Ehnes Quartet

Death preyed heavily on the minds of both Schubert and Sibelius when they were composing the two string quartets on this new CD from the Ehnes Quartet. Sibelius had undergone several operations to remove a tumour in his throat. The bleak and highly personal 4th Symphony is the masterwork from this period, but the string quartet ‘Intimate Voices’ of 1908 should not be underestimated. Taut and highly concentrated, it has an almost Haydnesque construction, and the quartet’s first movement’s sheer perfection of form approaches that of the 3rd Symphony’s opening movement. "I am the most unhappy and wretched creature in the world…whose health will never be right again" wrote Schubert to a friend in 1824. With his emotions veering from happy memories of earlier years to shuddering terror at the prospect of death, he composed two string quartets and the Octet over a two- month period. The D minor quartet makes ingenious use of his earlier song ‘Death and the Maiden’ from 1817 in the slow movement’s variations. ‘Give me your hand, you fair and gentle creature; I am a friend and do not come to punish’ sings Death soothingly. The music captures Schubert’s fearful state of mind in a remarkable ‘freeze frame’ effect.

“The Ehnes Quartet favour rhythmic buoyancy, athletic grace and crisp, clear lines for Schubert’s Death and the Maiden Quartet. Speeds are lithe, but not especially fast, and while it may be clean it’s not hygienic – there’s plenty of colour and variety of attack … this performance compels.” BBC Music Magazine, February 2017 ****

“emotionally laden performances…Superb recorded sound seals the deal” Classical Ear, August 2017

“[the Schubert is] anguished, yes, but in place of rough-edged abandon we get a razor-sharp, perfectly blended precision that verily slices through the air…[the] Sibelius tells a similar story of deep soul painted with a panoply of colours, dynamics and emotion, with a natural dramatic flow throughout. I never would have thought of putting these two works together, but in this group’s hands it has resulted in something wonderful.” Gramophone Magazine, January 2017

“From the opening chord, firm, precise, pliant, this quartet knows its collective mind when it comes to Schubert’s much loved “Death and the Maiden”...They avoid exaggerating the Viennese lilt, keeping all light, muscular and buoyant.” The Observer, 20th November 2016 ****

“The Ehnes Quartet's shared philosophy of sound and blend, plus its unanimity of pacing and purpose, especially beguile the ear in its interpretations of these soul-searching works.” The Strad, February 2017

GGramophone Awards 2017

Shortlisted - Chamber

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - January 2017

Onyx - ONYX4163

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Hérold: Le Pré Aux Clercs

Hérold: Le Pré Aux Clercs


Marie-Ève Munger (Isabelle Montal), Marie Lenormand (Marguerite de Valois), Jeanne Crousaud (Nicette), Michael Spyres (Mergy), Éric Huchet (Cantarelli), Christian Helmer (Girot)

Coro e Orquestra Gulbenkian, Paul McCreesh

CD2 + Book

With Le Pré aux clercs, premiered at the Opéra-Comique in 1832, Louis-Ferdinand Hérold wrote at once his biggest success and his last opera (he died three weeks after the first performance).

From the Overture to the Act III finale, the simplicity of the vocal lines, the impact of the dramatic effects and the effectiveness of the choral writing testify to the flowering of Romanticism and the composer’s assimilation of Rossini, then the paragon of modernity. Following the July Revolution of 1830, it was time to exorcise unfortunate memories: as was its habit, the Paris operatic world did not treat the topic of politics directly but through the fratricidal conflict that began on St Bartholomew’s Day (25 August 1572).

The basis for the libretto was a novel by Prosper Mérimée published in 1829, Chronique du règne de Charles IX. The immense success of the opera, virtually contemporary with Meyerbeer’s Les Huguenots, shows that it was perfectly in tune with the preoccupations of the time – and with the new ambitions of a supposedly ‘light’ genre…

“Michael Spyres almost nonchalantly floats through the tenor role of Mergy and Marie-Ève Munger skips joyfully through Isabelle’s Act III Ronde…the piece comes across with vivacity under Paul McCreesh’s idiomatic baton” Opera Now, January 2017 ****

“Hérold’s effervescent music is performed with tremendous charm by Paul McCreesh and the Gulbenkian Orchestra...Munger [is] in exquisite form, coloratura cascading like champagne...Ensembles fizz and it’s a joy to hear the mostly francophone cast in acres of dialogue.” Gramophone Magazine, January 2017

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - January 2017

A Musical Picture - up to 40% off

Ediciones Singulares Collection French Opera - ES1025

(2 CDs + Book - 2 discs)

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JS Bach: Cantatas Nos 54, 82 & 170

JS Bach: Cantatas Nos 54, 82 & 170


Bach, J S:

Cantata BWV170 'Vergnügte Ruh, beliebte Seelenlust'

Cantata BWV54 'Widerstehe doch der Sünde'

Cantata BWV82 'Ich habe genug'

Sinfonia: Cantata BWV174

Cantata BWV52 'Falsche Welt, dir trau ich nicht': Sinfonia


Ich habe genug is a timeless, transcendental masterpiece: a profound expression of Christian faith at the very end of life. It demands artistry of a special order, and Iestyn Davies now joins the likes of Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Lorraine Hunt Lieberson in the work’s distinguished discography. The couplings are equally ravishing performances of two other great solo cantatas, while the two orchestral sinfonias which complete the album will prove refreshingly familiar.

“Davies’s singular gifts of open-hearted expression, reined in to perfection and with no excess or indulgence, are expertly balanced by Arcangelo’s prominent solo musicians. Early in the year, a favourite disc already.” The Observer, 8th January 2017 *****

“The dominant virtue in this fine collaboration between the outstanding Davies and Arcangelo lies in an unsentimental perspicacity, reassuring in its intelligence and deep sensitivity.” Gramophone Magazine, January 2017

“The main pleasure in this album is the partnership between the eloquent soloist and the tangy playing of Arcangelo, wonderfully led by Jonathan Cohen, who doubles as a fizzing organist...Davies’s cool concentration heats up for a compelling Ich habe genug, finely weighted between religious ecstasy and resignation.” The Times, 13th January 2017 ****

“Iestyn Davies [gives a] poised, sober performance…Arcangelo’s strings have a beautifully firm sound, with plenty of bow and intelligent details from the lute, while oboist Katharina Spreckelsen plays elegantly” BBC Music Magazine, January 2017 ****

“If his German is not entirely idiomatic, his words are invariably clear and he relishes the interplay with the Arcangelo ensemble’s soloists...Best of all is the rapt singing of Schlummert ein (Go to sleep), in the well-known BWV82…Overall, a lovely disc.” Sunday Times, 15th January 2017

“Iestyn Davies is intently communicative with the words in the much-loved ‘Vergnügte Ruh’ and ‘Ich habe genug’” Financial Times

“A simply outstanding Bach disc.” MusicWeb International, 12th January 2017

“Davies sails serenely on through all vocal obstacles” Early Music Today, May 2017 *****

GGramophone Awards 2017

Winner - Baroque Vocal

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - January 2017

Gramophone Award Winners

Hyperion - CDA68111

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Alessandro Scarlatti: Missa defunctorum

Alessandro Scarlatti: Missa defunctorum


Scarlatti, A:

Missa Defunctorum

Magnificat

Miserere

Salve Regina


Odhecaton, Paolo Da Col

This recording is a discovery of Alessandro Scarlatti’s heretofore unknown sacred music, where Renaissance tradition meets Baroque sensibility for a unique and compelling recording. At the core of Odhecaton’s latest offering is the Missa defunctorum for four voices and basso continuo. It is in this magnificent score – recorded for the first time using the critical edition of Luca Della Libera – that primarily contrapuntal writing gives way to Scarlatti’s stylistic choices of great expressivity and rhetorical force, such as in the case of the astonishing Lacrimosa. The Miserere is also recorded for the first time. Written for nine voices for the Sistine Chapel, the score follows Allegri’s model only outwardly; Scarlatti, in fact, moves steadily away from it through his harmonic originality, formal richness, and expressivity. The Magnificat displays a unique synthesis of the Palestrinian model and the expressive language of the eighteenth century. In this score, Scarlatti exploits the great wealth and variety of the Marian text, particularly in the relationship between words and the emotional and descriptive spheres.

“The interweaving voices produce an attractive juxtaposition of density and transparency. Texts are declaimed crisply yet sensitively, melismatic vowels possess compassionate luminosity, and plangent contrapuntal contours illuminate Scarlatti’s harmonic chiaroscuro. The highlight is the chromatically charged ‘Lacrimosa’, its exquisite dissonances and harmonic twists redolent of Gesualdo.” Gramophone Magazine, January 2017

GGramophone Awards 2017

Shortlisted - Baroque Vocal

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - January 2017

A Musical Picture - up to 40% off

Arcana - A398

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Aspects

Aspects


Ginastera:

Danzas Argentinas (3), Op. 2

Henshall:

Welsh Dance No. 2

Houghton:

Opals

Marin, C M:

Flippen (The Flip)

Pritchard, David:

Stairs

Rivera, C:

Cumba-Quin

Rossini:

L'Italiana in Algeri Overture

York, A:

Quiccan


Aquarelle Guitar Quartet

With this new album, the Aquarelle Guitar Quartet draws a portrait of different aspects of the music they love and perform.

From the baroque to the contemporary, from bluegrass to jazz, from romantic to Latin, the album includes original works for four guitars, arrangements that have been made by members of the group, and even a new work written especially for this project. Aspects is both retrospective and prospective, including favourites which the Quartet has been performing for many years and also pieces which it has learnt specifically for this recording and which will form the basis of new concert programmes in the future.

“All is performed with that same customary blend of high octane virtuosity, relaxed lyricism, tonal richness and perfection of ensemble which has made the Aquarelle Guitar Quartet not merely one of the world’s leading guitar ensembles but, for sheer imagination and musicality, equal to the finest string quartet going.” Gramophone Magazine, January 2017

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - January 2017

Chandos - up to 40% off

Chandos - CHAN10928

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Music For My Love

Music For My Love

Celebrating the Life of a Special Woman


Brahms:

Von ewiger Liebe, Op. 43 No. 1

Casulana:

Il vostro dipartir

Dean, B:

Angels' Wings (Music for Yodit)

Elcock:

Song for Yodit, Op. 23

Ford, A:

Sleep

Holloway, R:

Music for Yodit

Kerem:

A Farewell for Yodit

Lord, J:

Zarabanda Solitaria

Pickard:

…forbidding mourning…

Ruders:

Lullaby for Yodit

Søderlind:

Å, den svalande vind…: 15 Variations on a Norwegian Folktune, Op. 120


Kodály Philharmonic Orchestra, Paul Mann

When in late 2014 Yodit Tekle was diagnosed with stomach cancer, her partner, Martin Anderson, who runs Toccata Classics, asked a couple of composer friends to write some music to bring her comfort in her illness. As her life slipped away, he had the idea that she could be remembered in music and so he began to commission other pieces for string orchestra in her memory. To his surprise, almost everyone he asked generously accepted, and so the project snowballed: there are now over 100 composers who have written or agreed to write for it – an undertaking unique in the history of music. This first volume presents the first eleven pieces in an initiative which, in effect, transforms love into something you can hear.

“A moving start to a project that memorialises personal loss in the most positive way – commissioning and showcasing some fine and varied new works in the start of what promises to be a long and rewarding series.” MusicWeb International, 13th December 2016

“The performances are sensitively realised under Paul Mann’s firm direction. There well could be another eight or nine discs in this series; if anywhere near the quality of this first volume, they will be self-recommending. A really wonderful disc that I have played over and over.” Gramophone Magazine, January 2017

“most pieces here speak powerfully enough to justify the back cover's claim that the project 'transforms love into something you can hear'. Some stretch far beyond their shortish span...You won't find icy perfection in these performances - here's gusto, generosity, and lots of heart: perfect music for anyone's love.” BBC Music Magazine, April 2017 ***

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - January 2017

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Toccata Classics - TOCC0333

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Beethoven: The Solo Concertos

Beethoven: The Solo Concertos


Beethoven:

Piano Concertos Nos. 1-5 (complete)

Stefan Vladar (piano)

Romance No. 1 for Violin and Orchestra in G major, Op. 40

Isabelle van Keulen (violin)

Romance No. 2 for Violin and Orchestra in F major, Op. 50

Isabelle van Keulen (violin)

Triple Concerto for Piano, Violin, and Cello in C major, Op. 56

Stefan Vladar (piano), Isabelle van Keulen (violin) & Julian Steckel (cello)

Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 61

Isabelle van Keulen (violin)


Wiener KammerOrchester, Stefan Vladar

Stefan Vladar, the Austrian pianist and chief conductor of the Vienna Chamber Orchestra, directs the ensemble in a new studio recording of all of Beethoven's concertos, plus the two Romances for violin and orchestra. He performs the dual role of soloist and conductor, true to the 18th-century Viennese tradition.

Featuring highly acclaimed soloists, these virtuoso performances assimilate the best of current and period practices.

This new recording from the musical hub of Vienna presents a fascinating benchmark interpretation.

“If you fancy a set of the Beethoven piano concertos that’s suitable for listening to at a single sitting, then look no further. An exceptional set.” Gramophone Magazine, January 2017

“From the orchestral overture of the first concerto, the Wiener KammerOrchester capture the attention with their dynamism and spirit. The piano itself responds with engaged playing, brilliant but never superficial, cheerful when appropriate [and] sensitive in the slow movements” Diapason, April 2017 *****

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - January 2017

Capriccio - C7210

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JS Bach: The Complete Keyboard Works

JS Bach: The Complete Keyboard Works


includes

Bach, J S:

The Well-Tempered Clavier, Books 1 & 2

Goldberg Variations, BWV988

Two-part Inventions Nos. 1-15, BWV772-786

Three-part Inventions (Sinfonias) Nos. 1-15, BWV787-801

French Suites Nos. 1-6, BWV812-817

English Suites Nos. 1-6, BWV806-811

Partitas Nos. 1-6, BWV825-830

Toccatas, BWV910-916

Italian Concerto, BWV971

Chromatic Fantasia & Fugue in D minor, BWV903

Six Little Preludes, BWV933-938

Five Little Preludes, BWV939-943


Zuzana Růžičková (harpsichord)

A musician of searching intellect, generous spirit and formidable purpose, Zuzana Růžičková is one of the 20th century’s most influential harpsichordists. Central to her career, the music of Bach also helped her to transcend with grace the extraordinary adversity she faced during World War II and the Communist era. “There is something above us, near to us, which makes absolute sense, but we don’t see it. Bach tells you: ‘Don’t despair, there is a sense in life and in the world.’” [80]

Zuzana Růžičková, who turns 90 on January 14th is one of the most influential harpsichordists of her time. The Bach recordings she made for Erato between 1965 and 1975, now released in a 15-CD box set, are central to her achievement.

Like her contemporaries Ralph Kirkpatrick (1911-1984) and Gustav Leonhardt (1928-2012), Růžičková was a major force in reviving the harpsichord’s fortunes in the latter half of the 20th century, but she is also an extraordinary witness to the history of Europe, in particular to the evolution of her Czech homeland, and to the transformative power of music.

Zuzana Růžičková was born in 1927 in Czechoslavakia into a well-to-do Jewish family. Her musical talent became apparent at an early age. In the late 1930s she was planning to go to France to study with the pioneering harpischordist Wanda Landowska, but everything changed for her when the Nazis invaded Czechoslovakia in 1938 and she was unable to leave the country. World War II brought a series of terrible ordeals for her. In 1942 she and her family were sent to the Theresienstadt (Terezín) ghetto/labour camp, where her father and grandparents died, but she and her mother went on to survive Auschwitz, forced labour in Hamburg and Bergen-Belsen, where they spent the final days of the War.

After the War, music helped her to rebuild her life. Once she had recovered her health, she returned to her studies and decided to specialise in music of the pre-Classical era. Today she quotes her father’s words: “Don’t hate. Hate is something that poisons your soul,” and she adds, “To live with music is really a wonderful blessing.”

Her international breakthrough came in 1956 when she won the ARD International Music Competition in Munich and was given a scholarship to study in Paris with Marguerite Roesgen-Champion. While remaining a citizen of Czechoslovakia, where she endured the difficulties and deprivations associated with life under Communism, she made a distinguished international career, receiving many awards and honours. Her interests and influence extended well outside the world of pre-Classical music: she was married to the distinguished Czech composer Viktor Kalabis (1923-2006) and her musical partners included such figures as the conductor Václav Neumann, the violinist Josef Suk and the cellists János Starker and Pierre Fournier. In 1989, during Czechoslovakia’s so-called Velvet Revolution, she participated in protests against the Communist regime. Since the restoration of democracy she has continued to live and teach in Prague.

One of her pupils is the dynamic young harpischordistt Mahan Esfahani, who has curated this box set with the team at Erato. “It is my immense honour to have this opportunity to introduce Warner Classics' re-issue of Zuzana Růžičková's recordings of the Complete Keyboard Works of J.S. Bach, a massive project (21 LPs!) which she undertook for Erato in the 1960s and 1970s,” he says. “For me, Professor Růžičková is ‘Mrs. Bach’, the harpsichordist who took the message of Bach's art throughout the world and to listeners of all nationalities. She has seen great upheaval and change in her own life, and brings to this art a message of peace and a conviction in the universality of Bach's music. More than anyone, she has taught me how to be an artist and I am delighted that we are celebrating her legacy.”

These recordings have been newly and fully re-mastered in 24BIT - 96kHz from the original master-tapes. On hearing the remastered versions, Mahan Esfahani said: “I’ve been listening to Zuzana Růžičková’s recordings all my life, but this remastering was a revelation: her playing has never sounded so lifelike before.”

In addition to the complete works for solo keyboard – including such landmarks as the Goldberg Variations, Well-Tempered Clavier, English Suites and French Suites – the box features: the Brandenburg Concerto No 5 and the Concerto for flute, violin, harpsichord in A minor (with Jean-Pierre Rampal, Josef Suk & the Prague Soloists under Eduard Fischer), the sonatas for violin and keyboard (with Josef Suk), and the sonatas for cello and keyboard (with Pierre Fournier). Throughout the set, Růžičková’s strong musical personality is in evidence: she takes a searching, expressive approach to the score, unafraid of being eclectic and subjective as she strives to capture its essence, and maintaining a rhythmic flexibility within the pulse of the music. In 1971, Gramophone, reviewing her recording of The Well-Tempered Clavier, wrote of “her generous response to the music and its variety of character.”

She remains grateful to Bach, who, as she explains “played a big role in my recovering from my terrible experiences. He starts with a fugue, and a fugue is something above human suffering … It’s about order. You always feel in his music that God is present somehow. [As we go about our lives] there is something above us, near to us, which makes absolute sense, but we don’t see it. That’s what Bach is about. He tells you: ‘Don’t despair, there is a sense in life and in the world.’”

“A significant set celebrating this fine harpsichordist’s survey of Bach’s solo keyboard music.” Gramophone Magazine, January 2017

GGramophone Magazine

Re-issue of the Month - January 2017

Erato - 9029593044

(CD - 20 discs)

$65.00

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