Gramophone Magazine Editor's Choice

June 2017

Editor's Choice

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Maximum Reger

Maximum Reger


Reger:

Violin Sonata No. 1, Op. 1

Sechs Lieder, Op. 4

Cello Sonata No 1 in F minor, Op. 5

Kleine Stücke Op. 13: Lose Blätter

Zehn Lieder Op. 15

Erste Suite E minor, Op. 16

Aus der Jugendzeit - Zwanzig kleine Stücke, Op. 17

Improvisationen, Op. 18

Five Humoresques

Fantasie-Stucke (7)

Fantasia über den Choral 'Ein feste Burg' Op. 27

Fantasie über ”Freu dich sehr, o meine Seele”, Op. 30

Fünf Gesänge, Op. 37

Chorale Fantasias (3), Op. 52

String Quartet, Op. 54, No. 1 in G minor

String Quartet, Op. 54, No. 2 in A major

Easy Preludes and Fugues (5), Op. 56

Symphonic Fantasia and Fugue, Op. 57

Zwölf Stücke, Op. 59

Organ Sonata No. 2 in D minor, Op. 60

Gesänge (16), Op. 62

Organ Pieces (12), Op. 65

Easy Chorale Preludes (52), Op. 67

10 Pieces for Organ, Op. 69

Violin Sonata No. 4 in C major, Op. 72

Variations and Fugue on an original theme in F sharp minor, Op. 73

String Quartet No. 3 in D minor Op. 74

Schlichte Weisen, Op. 76

Haus- und Kirchenmusik Op. 79

Zwölf Stücke, Op. 80

Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Bach, Op. 81

Aus meinem Tagebuch, Op.82

Zwei Kompositionen 'Albumblatt & Romanze' Op. 87

Vier Sonatinen Op. 89

Sonatas (7) for unaccompanied violin, Op. 91

Hausmusik, Op. 103

Cello Sonata No 4 in A minor, Op 116

Preludes, Fugues & Chaconne, Op. 117

String Sextet in F major Op. 118

An die Hoffnung, Op. 124

Introduction, Passacaglia & Fugue Op. 127

Tone Poems (4) after Arnold Böcklin, Op. 128

Organ Pieces (9), Op. 129

Preludes and Fugues (6) Op. 131a

3 Duos, Op. 131b

3 Suites for Cello solo Op. 131c

Three Suites for Solo Viola, Op. 131d

Chorale Preludes (30), Op. 135a

Fantasy & Fugue in D minor, Op. 135b

Neue Kinderlieder (5), Op. 142

Traume am Kamin, Op. 143


Aris Quartett, Graham Barber (organ), Markus Becker (piano), Julius Berger (cello), Andrew Brownell (piano), Brandenburgisches Staatsorchester, Ira Levin (conductor) Bernhard Buttmann (organ), Diogenes Quartett, Roland Glassl (viola) Bernhard Haas (organ) Hyperion Trio, Oliver Kern (piano) Frauke May (mezzo), Rudolf Meister (piano), Julien Quentin (piano), Bernhard Renzikowski (piano), Evgenia Rubinova (piano), Sayaka Shoji (violin), Hagen Schwarzrock (piano), Egidius Streiff (violin), Alessandro Tardino (piano), Katharina Troe (cello), Katharina Wildermuth (violin), WDR Funkhausorchester, Wayne Marshall (conductor)

This beautifully presented box-set consists of an in-depth documentary spanning three discs: a 210-minute film entitled Max Reger: The Last Giant, which covers the whole of Reger’s life and art. The story ranges from his extensive organ works and his use of complex counterpoint; his unconventional life and his problems with anxiety and alcohol; all the way to the triumphantly boundary-pushing works in which he expressed his own, singular relationship with the tensions between tonality and chromaticism that defined the period.

This unprecedented journey through the work of one of the early 20th century’s great artists also includes twelve hours of performances of Reger’s best music by an exceptional line-up of musicians. These specially filmed performances cover all or part of more than 50 of the composer’s 146 opus numbers. They have all been all specially commissioned and performed for the Maximum Reger project, and are available only with this box-set.

These recordings include performances by two German symphony orchestras, as well as some of Reger’s most significant instrumental and chamber works, plus a major survey of his substantial and varied organ music, recorded on five magnificent organs in Bremen, Chemnitz, Ludwigsburg, Ulm and Weiden.

As a Fugue State Films production, Maximum Reger boasts handsome production values with first-rate video and audio recording, and stars a host of world-class musicians and Reger scholars, who together paint a rich and vivid portrait of a true giant of classical music. It was filmed on location in many parts of Germany, and was created with full access to the Max Reger Institute’s massive archive of manuscripts, artworks and photographs.

This set of films compellingly places the composer in the context of the social and artistic maelstrom of the early 20th century, showing that in a musical world bequeathed by Bach, Brahms and Wagner – and about to be dominated by Schoenberg, Webern and Berg – Reger’s voice is one we should cherish. Maximum Reger demonstrates that Reger’s more experimental and chromatic music often rivalled – and sometimes even surpassed – the efforts of acknowledged giants of the period such as Schoenberg. This collection shows that Reger pushed with equal wildness against the limits of tonality, but did so while retaining an elegiac lyricism that, unlike his contemporaries, he never abandoned. This is what makes Reger both unique and relevant today. His singular voice is one whose lyricism coexists with its avant-garde experimentalism; whose sometimes immensely complex compositions and technical advances coexist with an appealing attitude towards the virtue of a beautiful melody on its own terms.

Reger has sometimes been overlooked by musical histories but, as this collection amply proves, his work boasts a unique richness of expression that deserves a central place in our musical appreciation. Reger's humour and vividness, his richness and variety of expression, and his own unique response to the questions surrounding tonality at that time, all mark him out as thoroughly deserving of the description given to him by Hindemith – ‘the last musical giant’.

Musical Highlights include:

• Awe-inspiring performances of Reger's most colossal organ works.

• An acknowledgement that Reger's greatest work was in the field of chamber music, with sensational performances of his quartet Op.54ii and sextet Op.118.

• The first ever recording of a new orchestration of Reger's signature work, the Bach Variations, Op.81.

• An exploration of his vast treasure trove of works for violin, including performances by Sayaka Shoji of Op.87 and 117.

• A rendition of his orchestral song An Die Hoffnung, Op.124, a work as haunting and beautiful as anything by Mahler or Strauss.

• Exquisite performances of unknown masterpieces for piano, violin, viola and cello, plus the very best of his lieder.

“A relatively straightforward yet informative examination of Reger's life and works that is thankfully bereft of gimmicky visual effects. Through a sequence of extended interviews and musical illustrations, the man and his legacy are probed in quietly persuasive terms...all in all, this is a hugely rewarding achievement that should persuade us all to revisit our preconceptions of Max Reger's place in music history.” BBC Music Magazine, August 2017 *****

“Fraser wants to elevate Reger into “the pantheon of the great composers”. Maximum Reger makes a very persuasive case.” FonoForum, July 2017 *****

“Reger enthusiasts will relish this, but those not so familiar with him should equally explore such compelling advocacy of the composer’s music, life and legacy, told through fascinating documentaries and glorious music-making.” Gramophone Magazine, June 2017

GGramophone Magazine

DVD of the Month - June 2017

BBC Music Magazine

Instrumental Choice - August 2017

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Volodos plays Brahms

Volodos plays Brahms


Brahms:

Capriccio in F sharp minor, Op. 76 No. 1

Capriccio in B minor, Op. 76 No. 2

Intermezzo in A flat, Op. 76 No. 3

Intermezzo in B flat major, Op. 76 No. 4

Intermezzi (3), Op. 117

Klavierstücke (6), Op. 118


Four years after his fascinating and highly praised album with works of the Spanish composer Mompou, Arcadi Volodos went into the Berlin Teldex Studio again to deliver another reference recording, this time with the music of Johannes Brahms. Volodos has played the Brahms solo pieces over the past years in places all over the world and received highest critical acclaim for his interpretation. The Brahms solo works are perfect to show Volodos unique ability to create a special and magic sound, a sound “which lifts us, the listener, into the air and which makes us believe that the world is floating" (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung). Recorded in the famous Teldex Studios Berlin in three sessions (2015 - 2017) on a great Steinway Grand Piano specially tuned by Michel Brandjes, one of the best tuners in the world. There is no editing in this recording. Volodos played every piece over and over again to develop his idea of structure and sound and chose the best version of each piece after the end of the recording.

“he is capable of playing of the most exquisite simplicity, spinning lines of lyrical purity.” The Guardian, 27th April 2017 ***

“This is one of those discs where a word count is a strange thing. For it needs only four: Go Buy This Disc...whatever he does, you can’t imagine the music going any other way, which is perhaps the definition of a great artist....Comparisons become irrelevant in interpretations of such mesmerising honesty. An award-winner if ever I heard one.” Gramophone Magazine, June 2017

“thrilling muscularity and introspective lyricism” Katherine Cooper, Presto Classical, April 2017

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - June 2017

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Antheil: Orchestral Works, Vol. 1

Antheil: Orchestral Works, Vol. 1


Antheil:

Symphony No. 4

Symphony No. 5 'Joyous'

Over the Plains

Premiere Recording


Alongside its ongoing much-lauded Copland series, the BBC Philharmonic embarks on a new American journey, this time with its chief guest conductor, John Storgårds.

Known as the ‘bad boy of music’, George Antheil began his career with a reputation as an enfant terrible, composing shockingly avant-garde works such as his ever-popular Ballet mécanique, inspired by the dynamism and dissonances of Stravinsky’s early ballets. Although he is well-established on the film music scene, too, it is his symphonic output – sampled here – that today survives in the concert hall.

This new series documents the evolution of his musical style, which moved towards a fundamentally tonal and melody-based idiom, Antheil joining the growing ranks of famous US symphonists. The war-inspired Fourth Symphony and ‘joyous’ Fifth clearly represent this compositional shift, breaking with what the composer called the ‘now passé’ modernism.

Also here is the premiere recording of the Texas-inspired Over the Plains, memorable for its allusions to cowboy music and offering some unexpectedly dramatic and atmospheric twists along the way.

“Rather than placing these symphonies squarely in the mid-century mainstream...John Storgårds revels in their idiosyncrasies, revealing a wealth of expressive detail I’d never heard before...A brilliant recording all around, and an important one. Bring on the next instalment.” Gramophone Magazine, June 2017

“This Chandos release is so intelligently planned, so well performed, and so superlatively well-recorded that it deserves a recommendation in very enthusiastic terms” classicalsource.com, June 2017

“this Chandos release is so intelligently planned, so well performed, and so superlatively well-recorded that it deserves a recommendation in very enthusiastic terms.” MusicWeb International, June 2017

“Storgårds treats this music with painstaking care, restoring deliberate ‘wrong notes’ expunged by earlier conductors in the Fourth, respecting all Antheil’s nuances of tempo variations, and – with the help of an excellent recording – balancing all the textures clearly.” BBC Music Magazine, August 2017 ****

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Mahler: Symphony No. 3

Mahler: Symphony No. 3


"Gustav Mahler’s Third Symphony, lasting one and a half hours or more, is not only his longest work but at the same time an exuberant and sunny ode to nature, mankind, the world and indeed life itself. And for this song of praise the composer requires both room and lavish means. No less than six movements, the richest of orchestral forces, and a contralto soloist and boys’ and women’s choirs whose sung texts help to bring across the symphony’s message, as in the Second Symphony and later in the Fourth and Eighth as well." (From liner notes by Clemens Romijn)

“[Fischer] is a challenge, inviting listeners to rethink and recalibrate their responses to the piece. Not everyone will be prepared to make the leap, but those who do will be handsomely rewarded. Without question, the finest instalment in Fischer’s Mahler cycle to date; and what breathtaking sound.” MusicWeb International, May 2017

“If you’ve enjoyed it as much as I have then you’ll need no encouraging to head for the second disc” Record Review, 20th May 2017

“Here for once is a Mahler symphony release that feels different from the outset...I doubt whether there has ever been a more precisely focused, more sheerly beautiful recording of any Mahler work...Reluctant to parade its roughest edges and disinclined to hurry, Fischer instead elicits a range of pristine, jewel-like colour that leaves its fabric refreshed...This Third is a must-have.” Gramophone Magazine, June 2017

“Fischer’s unique orchestra always presents music afresh. Never has the clarity of the orchestral textures shone more vividly. Maybe a fractionally slower tempo would have made the first movement’s climax more overwhelming — but along the way, what delights, what insights.” Sunday Times, 4th June 2017

“As vivid a performance as one would expect. That stylishly lazy trombone, a dying monster, is emblematic of the characteristic licence the conductor gives to his splendid Budapest players…the flowers of the field and the beasts of the forest have never been more vividly characterised, while Nietzsche's midnight ode is graced by the contralto of choice for Mahler symphonies, Gerhild Romberger…always alive, always interesting, vivid in sound” BBC Music Magazine, July 2017 ****

“What a finale: Fischer's flowing speeds avoiding any hint of bombast, the final cadence unforced and radiant. Everyone needs multiple recordings of this symphony. Add this new one to the pile.” The Arts Desk, June 2017

“Fischer isn’t afraid to let go in the music’s wilder episodes...Mostly importantly, [he] conducts with a plasticity of line, a natural rubato, that maximizes expressivity without excess sentimentality.” Classics Today, June 2017

““Like a sound of nature. That's the description that Mahler wrote above an oboe's cry in his epic Third Symphony from the 1890s. And it's a tag that Ivan Fischer has clearly taken to heart in this most eloquent and immersive performance…cuckoos, nightingales and birds galore; furry forest creatures; the anxiety call of the contrabassoon: they're spotted all over the bulk of this massive hymn to life in all forms. I've never heard a performance that captures nature's canvas so well” The Times, 16th June 2017 *****

“Every player seems to have thought about his part afresh and emotional power grows out of countless small moments, not the usual grandstanding. Some may find the performance too calculated. Others will admire its restraint, its eloquence, its distinctive voice.” Financial Times, 16th June 2017 ****

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Editor's Choice - June 2017

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Channel Iván Fischer Mahler Symphonies - CCSSA38817

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Ravel: Daphnis et Chloé

Ravel: Daphnis et Chloé


Marion Ralincourt (flute)

Les Siècles & Ensemble Aedes, François-Xavier Roth

'Daphnis and Chloé' is conceived as a ballet in one act and three parts, and tells the story of the love between the shepherd Daphnis and the shepherdess Chloé. A warlike tableau is framed by two pastoral ones: in the first, Daphnis and Chloé acknowledge their mutual love following a dance contest that provokes the jealousy of each of them in turn.

The interruption of a group of pirates, who abduct Chloé, puts an end to the rejoicing. The second tableau depicts the pirate camp; the captive girl is commanded to dance for her abductors. In the final tableau, Chloé is restored to Daphnis through a miracle of the god Pan, whom the nymphs have called on for help. After miming the tale of Pan and Syrinx, the young lovers let their joy burst forth in a General Dance of dazzling orgiastic virtuosity.

The orchestral forces are the largest Ravel ever employed and he adds a mixed chorus that sometimes hums and sometimes sings. As we have come to expect, François-Xavier Roth, in his début for harmonia mundi, has gone through Ravel's much-amended score with a fine-tooth comb and subsequently showed himself capable, in a ‘historically informed’ performance, of reproducing with the musicians of Les Siècles all the transparency and stylistic precision one could wish for in Ravel’s masterpiece.

"Daphnis et Chloé is part of the large-scale project we embarked on with Les Siècles in 2009: the odyssey of the Ballets Russes. To celebrate the centenary of that incredible artistic adventure, we wanted to reconstruct the Parisian orchestra that premiered these works in order to restore their original colours...As with each work of the Ballets Russes that we’ve played so far, we noticed just how remarkably the instruments of Ravel’s time, those French-built instruments typical of the early twentieth century, do justice to this music and make it meaningful!" FXR [from the booklet essay]

“There are some excellent things on this disc: full rein given to the ballet’s explosive side, often underplayed; as part of that, the wide range observed in crescendo markings, the underplaying of which Ravel himself complained about; splendidly rude bassoons for Dorcon’s clumsy dance; and beautiful flute playing from Marion Ralincourt” BBC Music Magazine, July 2017 ***

“Les Siècles’ French-built woodwind and brass instruments from the early 20th century...provide greater tonal sweetness, especially the Selmer trumpets, which don’t dominate textures as much as the incisive LSO brass. Lean gut strings achieve feathery lightness... With fine choral contributions from the Ensemble Aedes, this new recording is highly recommended.” Gramophone Magazine, June 2017

“I must confess that I han't fully appreciated just how much the sonorities of early twentieth-century instruments differ from their modern counterparts until I gave this recording a whirl; the veiled, soft-grained sonorities bring out all the hazy sensuality of Ravel's score.” Katherine Cooper, Presto Classical, April 2017

“With the strings playing on gut and wind instruments from the early years of the 20th century (all detailed in the sleeve notes), the sound is fabulously transparent; every detail of the woodwind and brass articulation, so minutely specified by Ravel, is clear.” The Guardian, 6th April 2017 ****

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Haydn: Piano Sonatas Volume 6

Haydn: Piano Sonatas Volume 6


Haydn:

Piano Sonata No. 11 in B flat major, Hob.XVI:2

Piano Sonata No. 34 in D major, Hob.XVI:33

Piano Sonata No. 35 in A flat major, Hob.XVI:43

Piano Sonata No. 36 in C major, Hob.XVI:21

Piano Sonata No. 43 in E flat major, Hob.XVI:28


The highly acclaimed series of Haydn’s complete piano sonatas with multi-award winning pianist Jean-Efflam Bavouzet has now reached Volume 6.

This set opens with the most imposing of Haydn’s early sonatas, No. 11, and follows it with two lesser-known ones, both from the late 1770s, that were published without the composer’s approval: Nos 34 and 35. Each of Nos 36 and 43, the last two featured here, opens a new group of six sonatas, and a new world in Haydn’s compositional style. Future volumes will continue to explore the huge variety of style and expression found in Haydn’s sonatas. As usual, the pianist conveys his personal views in the booklet notes, praising ‘the generally very short phrases typical of Haydn, the abundant touches of humour, the surprises, the embellishments’, and adding: ‘The five sonatas in this programme are not among the most well known. But what treasures they conceal!... I am delighted to dedicate this disc to Professor Ernő Nemecz with whom I have shared a love for Haydn’s music for thirty-five years.’

“He has [promoted Haydn] at a level of technical perfection allied to insight, rigorous intellectual curiosity and the probing instincts of a distinguished performer that have never been brought to bear so acutely and consistently on this part of Haydn’s activity...wonderfully clean as his playing is, there is always warmth and a host of qualities that make his fingers sing and speak and entertain the way they do.” Gramophone Magazine, June 2017

“Under Jean-Efflam Bavouzet’s supple fingers, [Sonata No. 11] proves a delight. By subtle shading of dynamics, minutely varying the rhythmic pacing and adding spritely touches of decoration to repeat sections, he reveals the piece to be packed with bright invention, with a touch of gravity in its slow movement” BBC Music Magazine, July 2017 *****

“His is a personal approach to Haydn yet it never stands in the way of the composer’s intention.” classicalsource.com, June 2017 ****

“The magnificently offbeat, eccentric opening movement of No. 11 sets the tone for 83 minutes of untrammelled delight. Reliably but ingeniously, Bavouzet finds something new to say in the repeats: no mere vocal- imitation trills but ornamentation and mini- cadenzas which honour Haydn’s own spirit of invention of the evolving keyboard instruments of his time.” Pianist Magazine, August 2017 *****

“The disc highlight is the magical Adagio of No 34, almost experimental in its use of register and silence, Bavouzet interpolates an effective mini-cadenza into the chirpy finale of No 36. Throughout, he adds effective ornaments in the repeats. Superb in all respects.” International Piano, September 2017 *****

“The disc highlight is the magical Adagio of No 34, experimental in its use of register and silence. Bavouzet interpolates an effective mini- cadenza into the chirpy finale of No 36. Throughout, he adds effective ornaments in the repeats. Superb in all respects.” Classical Music, September 2017 *****

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Pergolesi: Stabat Mater

Pergolesi: Stabat Mater


Bach, J S:

Cantata BWV54 'Widerstehe doch der Sünde'

Cantata BWV170 'Vergnügte Ruh, beliebte Seelenlust'

Pergolesi:

Stabat Mater


Lucy Crowe (soprano) & Tim Mead (counter-tenor)

La Nuova Musica, David Bates

Two of Bach’s finest cantatas, both for solo alto, composed in Weimar (1714) and Leipzig (1726) respectively, are here coupled with the delicious agony of grief that is Pergolesi’s 'Stabat mater', an acknowledged masterpiece by one of the 18th century’s most influential composers. Bach so admired the composition of his Neapolitan colleague that he made his own ‘parody’ of it to a German text. On this recording, La Nuova Musica, in its 10th anniversary year, and its two eminent soloists display equal mastery of both idioms.

Counter-tenor Tim Mead is praised for his “alluring...consistently excellent” interpretations (The New York Times). With his “rich, mellifluous sound” (Guardian), he is recognised as one of the finest across the generations of counter-tenors. Described as having a voice of bell-like clarity with an impeccable vocal technique and powerful stage presence, Lucy Crowe has established herself as one of the leading lyric sopranos of her generation.

Lucy Crowe and Tim Mead reunite to perform the 'Stabat Mater' at St John's Smith Square on May 12th [Early Opera Company/Curnyn]

“[La Nuova Musica] let phrases sigh and breathe and supply a decent amount of bass under properly expressive melodic lines...Crowe and Mead are both in sumptuous voice, and both fiery in the most dramatic moments of the Stabat Mater.” The Guardian, 30th March 2017 ****

“Lucy Crowe and Tim Mead withstand comparison with the finest on disc. Their voices blend ideally in the duets, and their stylish phrasing in the arias is especially rewarding here...A superb disc of baroque vocal music.” Sunday Times, 22nd May 2017

“In Lucy Crowe and Tim Mead the ensemble have both period specialists and singers with enough muscle and tone to temper stylistic precision with human drama. Together they lead a performance that is both meditation...and a vivid sacred drama...Bates and his ensemble take an active part in the drama too... A performance as sophisticated emotionally as it is musically.” Gramophone Magazine, June 2017

“[Mead] offers articulate readings of the cantatas, his voice (with its faint echoes of the young Andreas Scholl) is beautifully controlled, its reedy, instrumental quality yielding lovely dialogues with the ensemble…[Crowe’s] warm and agile soprano suits the mellifluous Italian idiom. [Bates] has lined up a crack team of instrumentalists, with eloquent solo contributions by oboist Patrick Beaugiraud and organist Silas Wollston.” BBC Music Magazine, August 2017 ***

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Howard Skempton: The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

Howard Skempton: The Rime of the Ancient Mariner


Skempton:

Only the Sound Remains

Christopher Yates (viola)

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

Roderick Williams (baritone)


Read Presto's complete review of this disc here.

Perfectly crafted, deceptively simplistic and distinctively individual, Howard Skempton's compositions have a soundworld all of their own. This new full-length album on NMC perfectly displays his experimental, yet sonorous and tonal music.

Skempton takes on Coleridge's epic poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and brings it to life, using just solo voice (baritone) and small chamber ensemble. The result is a stunning, dark and hypnotic journey led by the almost constant, magnetic presence of Roderick Williams, for whose voice and dramatic capabilities the piece was conceived.

Only the Sound Remains takes its name from the opening line of The Mill-Water by English poet Edward Thomas. The piece is an evocation of loss and decay, where textures, and melodies mysteriously recur, while others simply fade beautifully out of aural reach. It is written for for sixteen players, including solo viola. This is a stunning premiere recording of two recent works by one of Britain's finest living composers.

“[Skempton] judges the balance between reiteration and variety to perfection, while the typical Skempton traits – clarity, deceptive simplicity and apparently familiar yet fresh and capricious language – are all here, sensitively conveyed by Birmingham Contemporary Music Group.” BBC Music Magazine, August 2017 *****

“The vocal line [in Mariner] is necessarily dominant, given the wealth of imagery to be conveyed, though it helps when Roderick Williams has a clarity of enunciation second to none...[in Only the Sound Remains] Yates is naturally attuned to his concertante role, while Martyn Brabbins secures audible finesse from BCMG...this is a valuable addition to Skempton’s expanding discography.” Gramophone Magazine, June 2017

“Williams is, as ever, the most spellbinding of story-tellers...one of the many things I love about this work is the curious synergy between composer and performer in that both resist the temptation to gild the lily, and in the recording session I attended it really did seem as if Coleridge’s ‘Wedding-Guest’ was conjuring both text and music into being for the very first time.” Katherine Cooper, Presto Classical, 5th May 2017

“The text is sung, beautifully, by baritone Roderick Williams. Exactly how Skempton's restrained, tonal music works its magic is hinted at in John Fallas’s booklet essay. There’s talk of nine-note scales and four-part canonic textures, though this barely hints at the work’s dramatic power. The piano’s entry at the start of the second stanza made me jump…as an exercise in effective musical storytelling, it's magnificent, and a piece to fall in love with.” The Arts Desk, 29th July 2017

“[Skempton's] deceptively simple setting of Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (almost all of it!) is hypnotically effective...If at times it’s reminiscent of the sea-voyage movement in Britten’s oratorio St Nicolas, it’s also marvellously evocative.” The Times, 14th April 2017

Presto Disc of the Week

5th May 2017

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Szymanowski: Litany to the Virgin Mary, Stabat Mater & Symphony No. 3 'Song of the Night'

Szymanowski: Litany to the Virgin Mary, Stabat Mater & Symphony No. 3 'Song of the Night'


Szymanowski:

Stabat Mater, Op. 53

Litania do Marii Panny (Litany to the Virgin Mary), Op. 59

Symphony No. 3 'The Song of the Night', Op. 27


Aleksandra Kurzak (soprano), Agnieszka Rehlis (mezzo-soprano), Dmitry Korchak (tenor) & Artur Ruciński (baritone)

Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra & Choir, Jacek Kaspszyk

The follow-up to their Grammy-winning album “Penderecki conducts Penderecki”

The new album by the Warsaw Philharmonic features music by eminent Polish composer Karol Szymanowski. His “Litany to the Virgin Mary”, “Stabat Mater” and “Song of the Night” were written between 1914 and 1933, which is considered to have been the most fruitful period in his creative life.

“Litany to the Virgin Mary” to a poem by Jerzy Liebert (1904-1931) – a poet known for his love of lyrical verse on philosophical and religious subjects – is a piece which Szymanowski began to compose in 1930.

“Stabat Mater”, completed in 1926, was officially commissioned from Szymanowski by the Polish art collector Bronisław Krystall to commemorate his wife’s death. The work was inspired, however, by a tragic event that affected Szymanowski’s family. Szymanowski’s “Stabat Mater” holds a special place in the history of Polish music after Chopin. It exerted a powerful impact even on eminent composers working fifty years later, wrote Marcin Gmys, PhD, professor of Adam Mickiewicz Institute.

The last work on this CD is Symphony No. 3 “Song of the Night” for solo voice, mixed choir and orchestra (1914-1916) – a whole new world of musical imagination, whose protagonist and speaker is an artist – at first unable to express his own feelings.

The performers are Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir under the baton of the Philharmonic’s artistic director, Jacek Kaspszyk, as well as outstanding soloists: Aleksandra Kurzak, Agnieszka Rehlis, Artur Ruciński, and Dmitry Korchak.

“This huge ensemble is captured in brilliant sound - essential for appreciating the composer's luxuriantly detailed soundworld...[in the Stabat Mater] Kaspszyk ensures that everything is balanced between introversion and dramatic impact...[in the Third Symphony] Kaspszyk brings out the dancing flexibility oof the central movement while controlling his forces masterfully.” BBC Music Magazine, September 2017

“Beautifully sung, with a well-judged sense of immediacy, urgency and humanity. The playing is excellent – affectionately supportive, and decisive and dramatic too.” Gramophone Magazine, June 2017

“It is invigorating to hear Karol Szymanowski’s compatriots performing his music...Gorgeous sounds.” Sunday Times, 2nd July 2017

“Inflections of Polish folk music, glancing memories of north African travels – all are vividly conjured up by Kaspszyk and his players. The singers are excellent, the women of the choir igniting a glowing halo around Aleksandra Kurzak’s soaring soprano.” The Guardian, 6th April 2017 ****

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - June 2017

BBC Music Magazine

Choral & Song Choice - September 2017

Released or re-released in last 6 months

Warner Classics - 90295864507

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Takács Quartet - Beethoven Complete String Quartets

Takács Quartet - Beethoven Complete String Quartets

Limited Edition


Beethoven:

String Quartets Nos. 1-16 (complete, inc. Grosse Fuge)

String Quartet No. 7 in F major, Op. 59 No. 1 'Rasumovsky No. 1'

DVD

Haydn:

String Quartet, Op. 33 No. 3 in C major ‘The Bird'

DVD

Schubert:

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

DVD


7CD + Blu-ray audio + bonus DVD

Since its formation in 1975, the Takács Quartet has been recognised as one of the world’s leading string quartets. Their award-winning recordings include the complete Beethoven String Quartets for Decca, recorded between 2002 and 2004. Decca Classics celebrates the acclaimed quartet with this multi-media presentation of the Beethoven quartets on 7 CDs, 1 Blu-ray Audio disc, and a bonus DVD.

7 CDs presenting the Takács’ recordings of the complete Beethoven String Quartets collected together for the first time.

The complete repertoire has been remastered from the original tapes and is presented on one single High Fidelity Pure Audio Blu-ray disc, allowing true 24-bit/48kHz playback.

Handsomely packaged in a rigid slip case and wallets with bronze, silver and gold foiling, presenting the Early, Middle, and Late quartets.

104-page, full-colour, perfect-bound booklet.

Excerpt from Edward Dusinberre’s book “Beethoven For A Later Age – The Story of A String Quartet” (described by Peter Quantrill in Gramophone, as “A book unlike any other in its field, to be considered and enjoyed by anyone with more than a passing interest in Beethoven or quartet playing of the intimate workings of a great string quartet.”).

Repertoire notes in English, French, and German, by Misha Donat.

Recording notes by Decca Engineer Simon Eadon Includes a bonus DVD of Beethoven, Schubert and Haydn recorded at Hopetoun House, Scotland.

“I attended some of these sessions and can still recall the forensic care and commitment the Takács brought to these works.” Gramophone Magazine, June 2017

GGramophone Magazine

Re-issue of the Month - June 2017

Released or re-released in last 6 months

Decca - 4831317

(7 CDs + Blu-ray Audio + DVD Video - 9 discs)

$52.50

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Brahms: String Sextets Nos. 1 & 2

Brahms: String Sextets Nos. 1 & 2

Live from Aix Easter Festival 2016


Brahms:

String Sextet No. 1 in B flat major, Op. 18

String Sextet No. 2 in G major, Op. 36


Renaud Capuçon, Christoph Koncz (violins), Gérard Caussé, Marie Chilemme (violas) & Gautier Capuçon, Clemens Hagen (cellos)

For the first time since their recording of Saint-Saëns La Muse et le Poète in 2013, the French brothers reunite for a recording of two of the great pillars of Romantic chamber music – Brahms’ string sextets. At the peak of the musical powers, they both appear regularly throughout the world on all the major concert hall platforms. Alongside their solo careers, performing chamber music with friends has always been an important part of their lives, and here they are joined by Austrian violinist Christoph Koncz, French violists Marie Chilemme and Gérard Caussé, and Austrian cellist Clemens Hagen. The album was recorded live at the Aix Easter Festival 2016.

The sextets are amongst the most joyful and skilfully-written works of the Romantic chamber music canon. While his own voice as a composer can clearly be heard, outside influences from the great Classical era composers such as Schubert and Beethoven are also in evidence.

The second sextet was written around the time Brahms became close to a young singer called Agathe von Siebold, so close in fact that many of their acquaintances thought they would eventually marry. Brahms however refused to be tied down and Agathe broke off the relationship. Near the end of the exposition of the first movement, the first and second violins together spell "Agathe" by playing the notes A-G-A-D-H-E, leading many to deem this work as dedicated to her. After completing the work Brahms wrote to a friend, "Here I have freed myself from my last love."

“Theirs is music-making of rare intimacy and shared enjoyment - one has the sense of listening in on six musicians at the top of their game, playing as they might in a cosy domestic setting.” BBC Music Magazine, August 2017 ****

“It’s been some years since we’ve had a disc of Brahms’s sextets as thoroughly satisfying as this one...The Capuçon brothers and their colleagues may be an ad hoc group but they play with the unanimity and blended tone of a veteran ensemble...Best of all, the musicians find a near-ideal balance of urgency and patience – the hallmark of a great Brahms interpretation.” Gramophone Magazine, June 2017

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - June 2017

Released or re-released in last 6 months

Erato - 9029588837

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$14.00

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Liszt: A Faust Symphony, S108

Liszt: A Faust Symphony, S108

(Arr. C. Tausig for Piano)


István Lajkó (piano)

Among Franz Liszt's favorite piano students, Carl Tausig was an acclaimed virtuoso in his own right and regarded in some quarters as Liszt's superior in control and accuracy. Tausig's faithful solo piano transcription of the Faust Symphony was likely inspired by Liszt's groundbreaking piano arrangements of the symphonies of Ludwig van Beethoven, and Tausig may have considered his keyboard version as a suitable companion piece to Liszt's Piano Sonata in B minor. Quite amazingly, even though the Faust Symphony has been adequately represented in orchestral performances and recordings, Tausig's piano transcription receives its world premiere recording in this 2016 Hungaroton release by István Lajkó. The richness of the arrangement and its dazzling technical displays make it an attractive vehicle for Lajkó, though it requires considerable restraint in extremely quiet passages where Liszt uses only a single line to carry the thought, particularly in statements of the main theme, in which four augmented triads unfold in a questioning gesture. Lajkó's delicate touch gives these exposed melodies a feeling of hushed anticipation, and he conveys the sense of reverie that informs Liszt's music, even at its most austere. Hungaroton's recording is close-up and clean, so every detail is audible and Lajkó's subtle shadings are easy to detect.

“the virtuoso demands made on the pianist over the course of nearly an hour and a quarter are formidable...These are admirably met in Lajkó’s reverent, imaginative and thoughtful performance. His inerrant sense of pacing charts the narrative thread through the individual movements even as it throws Liszt’s towering architecture into vivid relief.” Gramophone Magazine, June 2017

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - June 2017

Released or re-released in last 6 months

25% off Hungaroton

Hungaroton - HCD32792

(CD)

Normally: $14.25

Special: $10.68

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