Gramophone Magazine Editor's Choice

August 2017

Editor's Choice

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Bach | Beethoven: Fugue

Bach | Beethoven: Fugue


Bach, J S:

The Art of Fugue, BWV1080: Contrapunctus I

The Art of Fugue, BWV1080: Contrapunctus II

The Art of Fugue, BWV1080: Contrapunctus III

The Art of Fugue, BWV1080: Contrapunctus IV

Beethoven:

String Quartet No. 13 in B flat major, Op. 130

(arranged for string orchestra with Grosse Fuge, Op. 133)


“This album covers the gamut of expressive musical possibilities – from extreme anguish and despair to heart-aching simplicity, from intellectual rigour and pure consonance to shattering dissonance. It is everything.” – Richard Tognetti

Hot on the heels of their ARIA-nominated recording of Mozart’s Last Symphonies, the Australian Chamber Orchestra and Richard Tognetti showcase two works of genius by Beethoven and Bach. Recorded live in concert, these seminal works are given a new lease of life, opening up new soundworlds through the vitality and virtuosity for which the ACO has become globally renowned.

Both Bach and Beethoven wrote these pieces towards the end of their lives. Beethoven’s Grosse Fuge was originally conceived as the final movement to his last string quartet; in it, the genre moves away from salon music into what Tognetti describes as “hyper-controlled cacophony, rousing responses ranging from rapture to despair”. This was too much for Beethoven’s contemporaries, and the quartet was soon given a more orthodox ending. In this album the Grosse Fuge is returned to its original place, and is presented in an arrangement for string orchestra by Tognetti which, in his words, is “careful not to exploit the greater dynamic capabilities at the expense of the innerlich heart of Beethoven’s uniquely powerful music”.

Bach’s The Art of Fugue was left unfinished at his death, and is a work shrouded in mystery: it is unclear for what instrument it was originally written. A masterclass in the fugue – a form in which a single musical theme repeats and weaves around itself – the first four movements are presented here using strings, winds and even the voices of the orchestra to bring out the polyphonal parts which, in Bach’s hands, speak as one.

Critical acclaim for the concerts at which this album was recorded include praise for the ACO’s “uncanny blend of muscularity and airiness” (The Daily Telegraph) and “restless dynamism” (Sydney Morning Herald).

“Some readers may already have their minds made up: there are no gains and only losses in amplifying late Beethoven. I urge them to listen to this...the unanimity of the ACO lends Tognetti’s direction the same agility and unstoppable momentum as a solo-quartet version. It’s a formidable achievement.” Gramophone Magazine, August 2017

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Håkan Hardenberger plays Dean and Francesconi

Håkan Hardenberger plays Dean and Francesconi


Dean, B:

Dramatis personae for trumpet and orchestra

Francesconi:

Hard Pace - Concerto for trumpet and orchestra


Håkan Hardenberger (trumpet)

Gothenburg Symphony, John Storgårds

Ever since his very first disc, released by BIS some thirty years ago, Hakan Hardenberger has earned recognition for his performances of the classical repertory, but also as a pioneer of significant and vituosic new music for the trumpet. Collaborations with composers such as Takemitsu, Part, Henze, and H.K. Gruber have resulted in numerous works, of which the two recorded here are among the more recent. Brett Dean's concerto Dramatis personae is named after the term used for the list of characters in a stage work, and casts the soloist in the role of the ''Hero''. Dean's protagonist is a complex one, however, with traits inspired by comic book super heros as well as the classical flawed heros of literature and legend: ''Soliloquy'', the second movement, is a reference to Hamlet, while Charlie Chaplin's character in Modern Times has inspired the work's finale, ''The Accidental Revolutionary''. If there is a hero in the concerto by Luca Francesconi, it is Miles Davis. In his comment sto the work, Francesconi talks of Davis as ''a musician who transcends all labels'' with ''a delicate, cracked sound'' and a voice which speaks directly to the listener. Hard Pace, the title of Francesconi's work, is an allusion to a difficult journey, but it is also a conflation of the names of the performers for whom it was written: Hardenberger, Antonio Pappano and the Santa Cecilia Orchestra. On the present recording it is the Gothenburg Symphony and conductor John Storgards who provide Hakan Hardenberger with expert support in these demanding and rewarding scores.

“Not only is Dean’s piece as theatrical as its title would suggest, it also has a compelling downwards trajectory...Luca Francesconi’s concerto Hard Pace couldn’t be more different but is just as special, perhaps even more so...With Storgårds and the GSO, it’s a dream team” Gramophone Magazine, August 2017

“Two impressive 21st-century trumpet concertos...Both are brilliantly done by the Gothenburg Symphony, with Hardenberger’s thrilling trumpet playing taking centre stage.” Sunday Times, 6th August 2017

“It’s virtuosic writing all round, vertiginously so for Hardenberger; the abiding impression granular, craggy and imposing. Superb support from John Storgårds’s Gothenburg forces in a bold, biting recording.” Classical Ear, September 2017

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Dvořák: 'American Quartet' and Quintet

Dvořák: 'American Quartet' and Quintet


Dvorak:

String Quartet No. 12 in F major, Op. 96 'American'

String Quintet No. 3 in E flat major, Op. 97 'American'

Krzysztof Chorzelski (viola)


Following a very successful concert at the Music Room of Champs Hill, the renowned Škampa Quartet returned to Champs Hill to record this disc featuring Antonín Dvořák’s American String Quartet and Quintet Opp. 96-97, joined by violist Krzysztof Chorzelski for the latter.

The quartet talk about their choice of repertoire: “We were seduced by the charming coincidence of both opus numbers having been destined for string quartet, while the preceding work, Op.95, happens to be nothing smaller than the monumental Symphony No. 9, the ‘New World’ Symphony.” The Škampa Quartet is among the very finest of an outstanding group of current Czech string quartets that has represented their country in major Concert Halls around the world for twenty-five years.

The quartet have established a close relationship with BBC Radio 3 resulting in regular broadcasts from Wigmore Hall, St John’s Smith Square, LSO St Luke’s and the Chamber Music Proms. They have been an award-winning recording artist for Supraphon for most of the Quartet's career. They are now also among the elite artists whose performances have been selected for release on the Wigmore Hall Live label.

“The Skampa Quartet play this great chamber music with technical elan and superbly mellow tone in Dvorak’s Bohemian reminiscences.” Sunday Times, 25th June 2017

“The Škampa Quartet continues to give unalloyed pleasure with their exceptional tuning and blend.” MusicWeb International, July 2017

“Throughout the American Quartet the Škampa have an ease of manner that is reminiscent of the iconic reading by the Pavel Haas Quartet...For the far less well-known American Quintet the Škampa have borrowed the Belcea’s viola player, Krzysztof Chorzelski – a classy move. He is absolutely on the same wavelength as the quartet and this is a reading that gives the music time to breathe.” Gramophone Magazine, August 2017

“…the theme and variations Larghetto breathes wonderfully and once again benefits from that impeccable blend, which is caught with clarity and a touch of space at Champs Hill.” The Strad, September 2017

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Debut - Elisabeth Brauss

Debut - Elisabeth Brauss


Beethoven:

Piano Sonata No. 7 in D major, Op. 10 No. 3

Chopin:

Piano Sonata No. 2 in B flat minor, Op. 35 'Marche funèbre'

Denhoff:

Etude de couleurs, Op. 115

Prokofiev:

Piano Sonata No. 2 in D minor, Op. 14


Elisabeth Brauss (piano)

In January 2015 Elisabeth Brauss won first prize at the competition 'Ton und Erklärung' in Frankfurt and performed with the Frankfurt Radio Symphony in the finale. This prize is awarded annually by the Cultural Society of the German Economy in BDI; OehmsClassics also presents the prize winner CD each year. The 2015 prize winner obviously has a great career before her: she has already given guest performances at the Konzerthaus in Berlin, the Hamburg Laeiszhalle, the Mariinksy Theatre in St. Petersburg, at the Beethovenfest in Bonn, at the Heidelberg Spring Festival and regularly at the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival and the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern Festival. In October 2016 she also won the KlavierOlymp in Bad Kissingen.

“It is rare to encounter this degree of instrumental mastery wed to musical depth and sensitivity in one so young. Brauss’s exhilarating Beethoven is so thoroughly integrated that each movement is emotionally and spiritually amplified by what has gone before. Her original and unaffected Chopin-playing is fresh and a joy to listen to.” Gramophone Magazine, August 2017

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Bach - Secular Cantatas VIII

Bach - Secular Cantatas VIII

Celebratory Cantatas


Bach, J S:

Cantata BWV206 'Schleigt,spielende Wellen, und murmelt gelinde'

Cantata BWV215 'Preise dein Glücke, gesegnetes Sachsen'


Besides the fact that they both celebrate Augustus III, Elector of Saxony and King of Poland, there is a close connection between the two works included on the eighth volume of Bach's secular cantatas. On October 2nd, 1734, the King and his family made a surprise visit to Leipzig, and in all haste a festive event was planned for three days later, in celebration of the anniversary of Augustus's ascension to the Polish throne. Bach was asked to provide the musical entertainment, and consequently had to put aside the work he was busy composing...namly BWV 206 ''Schleicht, spielende Wellen'', intended for a celebration of the King's birthday on October 7th! The new cantata, Preise dein Glucke, gesegnetes Sachsen, BWV 215, is a substantial work, and it is not surprising that Bach, with only a few days to produce it, had recourse to earlier compositions: the only parts that were written completely from scratch were the recitatives, the soprano aria and the final chorus. In the meantime, BWV 206 - the birthday cantata that Bach had to put on hold - came to good use two years later, when the King's birthday was celebrated with a concert at Zimmermann's coffee house in Leipzig. Both works are richly scored with trumpets and timpani, and here receive suitably festive performances form Bach Collegium Japan and Masaaki Suzuki.

“Both the gentleness and ecstatic immediacy of Bach’s rich imagery become apparent at the outset and each movement is performed at a compellingly high level. The liquid and brilliantly projected bass-singing of Roderick Williams is simply majestic...After 22 years of intensive Bach recording, Suzuki and his forces just seem to get better.” Gramophone Magazine, August 2017

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Hanns Eisler: Lieder Und Balladen Vol 1

Hanns Eisler: Lieder Und Balladen Vol 1


Eisler:

Bankenlied, Op. 48 No. 1

Die Ballade vom Wasserrad, Op. 45 No. 11

Lied Der Nanna

Lied von der belebenden Wirkung des Geldes

Kuppellied

Das "Vielleicht"-Lied

Chorlied Von Der Nützlichen Missetat

Ändere Die Welt, Sie Braucht Es

Grabrede Für Einen Genossen

Lob Des Lernens

Solidaritatslied (No. 1 from Kuhle Wampe, Op. 27)

Die Spaziergänge

Sklave, wer wird dich befreien

Oh Falladah, Die Du Da Hangest

Das Lied Vom Anstreicher Hitler

Deutsches Lied 1937, 'Marie, weine nicht'

Stempellied (No. 6 from Sechs Lieder, Op. 28)

Schlussballade

Lied Der Mariken

Wenn Der Igel In Der Abendstunde

In Die Städte Kam Ich

An Die Überlebenden

Das Lied Vom SA-Mann

Ballade Vom Baum Und Den Ästen

Der Rauber und sein Knecht

Die Ballade vom Soldaten

Das Einheitsfrontlied


Holger Falk (baritone), Steffen Schleiermacher (piano)

Between the Great Depression and the Third Reich the committed communist endeavoured to exercise influence with his music as his medium. On the first volume of MDG's edition of Hanns Eisler’s songs, Holger Falk and Steffen Schleiermacher present pieces from the years between 1929 and 1937 for which Bertolt Brecht supplied almost all the texts.

A long-overdue rehabilitation of a composer who for many years was known above all as the German Democratic Republic’s artistic spokesman!

Eisler’s fight songs dedicated to the working class continue to be remembered today – especially the “Solidaritätslied” and the “Einheitsfrontlied,” which later became popular tradition both in East Germany and among the Left in West Germany.

Marching may have fallen somewhat out of fashion, but this does not at all diminish the impact of these songs. We enjoy the intensive presentation of the performers even more while they find precisely the right middle position between ambitious and unassuming artistry.

“All the songs receive terrific performances. Holger Falk has a clear, cleanly focused baritone that can run the gamut from a honeyed piano to something more like an impassioned shout...There’s also an ideal balance between sophistication and rawness, a certain neutrality of interpretation that will bear repeated listening but doesn’t betray the gritty roots of the music.” Gramophone Magazine, August 2017

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Kurtág: Complete Works for Ensemble and Choir

Kurtág: Complete Works for Ensemble and Choir


Kurtág:

Capriccios (4) to poems by István Bálint, Op. 9

Songs (4) to Poems by Janos Pilinszky, Op. 11

Grabstein für Stephan Op. 15c

Messages of the Late Miss R.V. Troussova, Op. 17

…quasi una fantasia…op. 27 No. 1

Doppelkonzert, Op. 27 No. 2

What is the word

Songs of Despair and Sorrow, Op 18

Poems (4) by Anna Akhmatova, Op. 41

Colinda-Balada

Bref Message a Pierre Boulez


Netherlands Radio Choir (chorus), Natalia Zagorinskaya (soprano), Gerrie de Vries (mezzo-soprano), Yves Saelens (tenor), Harry van der Kamp (bass), Jean-Guihen Queyras (cello), Elliott Simpson (guitar), Tamara Stefanovich (piano), Csaba Király (pianino, spoken word)

Asko | Schoenberg Ensemble, Reinbert de Leeuw

Recorded in Amsterdam's Musikgebouw and Haarlem's Philharmonie between March 2013 and July 2016, this 3-CD set is a milestone in the documentation of Hungarian composer György Kurtág's work and also a labour of love. It brings together all of Kurtàg's works for ensemble and for ensemble and choir.

The insightful and precise performances bear witness to extensive preparation by the dedicated Asko/Schoenberg Ensemble. Conductor Reinbert de Leeuw speaks of "learning Kurtág's oeuvre step by step, and performing these pieces repeatedly over a period of twenty years."

De Leeuw consulted extensively with György and Márta Kurtág before and after each session: "There were moments when I was overwhelmed at first hearing", says the famously-demanding Kurtág, "and we could embrace the result immediately. But sometimes we were critical. The fact that Reinbert always listened to our remarks and re-recorded fragments or even whole pieces makes this publication authentic."

Works heard here are presented in chronological order of composition, beginning with the Four Capriccios (1959-1970, rev. 1993) and continuing with Four Songs to Poems by János Pilinszky (1975), Grabstein für Stephan (1978-79, rev. 1989), Messages of the late Miss R. Troussova (1976-80), …quasi una fantasia… (1987-88), Op. 27 No. 2 Double Concerto (1989-90), Samuel Beckett: What is the Word (1991), Songs of Despair and Sorrow (1980-1994), Songs to Poems by Anna Akhmatova (1997-2008), Colinda-Balada (2010), and Brefs Messages (2011).

The extensive CD booklet includes all song texts with translations, an interview with Reinbert de Leeuw, liner notes by Wolfgang Sandner and Paul Griffiths, and a statement by György Kurtág.

“This magnificent, Netherlands-sourced set brings together some of Kurtág’s greatest achievements and is performed with devotional precision and commitment by the ensemble Asko | Schönberg...Kurtág’s exquisitely precise music, wasting nothing, demands that attention.” The Guardian, 22nd June 2017 *****

“Spareness, that supercharged concision, is ever the Kurtag note — and, as caught by these outstanding musicians, resonates powerfully here.” Sunday Times, 25th June 2017

“For De Leeuw, this was clearly a labour of love and, working closely with the composer, he delivers razor-sharp performances that draw the listener inexorably in. Playing is uniformly electric, pianist Tamara Stefanovich and cellist Jean-Guihen Queyras especially shining…an unmissable set” Classical Music, July 2017 *****

“The interpretations are of a consistently elevated standard. Messages of the Late Miss R Troussova, a signature Kurtág score, sets a marker: soprano Natalia Zagorinskaya gives a riveting performance of this expressionist female Winterreise, harnessing Kurtág’s shriek-gesang just sufficiently to stop it tipping into caterwauling.” BBC Music Magazine, August 2017 *****

“The more spare Kurtág’s textures, the more this recording excels – and drops the jaw...The playing here is exquisite...The composer’s freedom from the necessity to transition is as musically cleansing as it is communicatively direct, full of tantalising imagery...A proper treasure trove.” Gramophone Magazine, August 2017

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Bach, J S: Brandenburg Concertos Nos. 1-6 BWV1046-1051 (complete)

Bach, J S: Brandenburg Concertos Nos. 1-6 BWV1046-1051 (complete)


Hamburger Kammerorchester, Harry Newstone

Harry Newstone, one of the first and best ‘scholar conductors’, recorded his famous set of Brandenburg Concertos with the Hamburg Chamber Orchestra for the SAGA label in 1959. Long seen as highly stylised, particularly with the back drop of performances from the ‘historically informed’ movement, they were, in effect, thoughtful, erudite renditions which introduced a generation of Baroque enthusiasts to these wonderful works. The recordings were so successful that they appeared at the top of the SAGA bestseller list for years. But a CD version has never been available. Heritage has joined forces with KlassicHaus in the US to produce excellent transfers of these classic performances. Informative and engaging notes are provided by Tully Potter.

“Tempos here are extremely well judged...Under Newstone the buoyancy of the playing, especially in the first movement of the Third Concerto...makes a favourable impression and I love the prominent double-bass sonority in the Sixth Concerto...Although occasionally a little cramped, the sound comes up remarkably well, certainly considering the date and the vinyl sources used.” Gramophone Magazine, August 2017

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Jonathan Dove: In Damascus

Jonathan Dove: In Damascus


Dove:

In Damascus

Mark Padmore (tenor)

Out of Time

Piano Quintet

Charles Owen (piano)


Even though Jonathan Dove is best known as a vocal or choral composer, with operas and works for children forming the backbone of his output, his chamber music reveals similar predilections for narrative, drama, atmosphere and a sense of the personal. His new commission from the Sacconi Quartet, In Damascus, was inspired by the violinist Hannah Dawson s suggestion for a work that should reflect aspects of the conflict in Syria; not because music can offer any political solution, but simply as an expression of empathy, sorrow, even outrage at those terrible events. Featuring a performance by tenor Mark Padmore, the text is taken from prose-poems by Ali Safar that draw on his first- hand experiences in Syria, eloquently translated by Anne-Marie McManus. The Sacconi s present this new work alongside his string quartet work, Out of Time, and his Piano Quintet, performed with pianist Charles Owen.

“The beauty of the piece, for tenor and string quartet, is its restraint. It doesn’t sensationalise, get maudlin, moralise or politicise. The words are direct and the music respects that. The performance does, too: clear, focused playing from the Sacconi Quartet and lucid, unswerving narrative from tenor Mark Padmore.” The Guardian, 8th June 2017 ****

“Given the subject-matter, Dove’s new song-cycle In Damascus was never going to be an easy listen as such - but Dove’s writing is so accessible and lucid (aided by Mark Padmore’s eloquent, unhistrionic delivery) that its appeal is immediate and its impact impossible to forget.” Katherine Cooper, Presto Classical, June 2017

“Mark Padmore uses his voice with such emotional intelligence… the string playing is by turn both dark and passionate” Record Review, 11th June 2017

“Dove’s In Damascus proves a powerful, passionate and above all humane commentary on that country’s current plight… impeccable playing from the Sacconi Quartet.” Classical Ear, August 2017 ****

“Seldom does a mixed vocal and chamber programme such as this hang together so perfectly...[In Damascus] was tailor-made for Mark Padmore, who summons up every iota of his immense interpretative powers to steer us through this reflective testament. This important release cannot be recommended too highly.” Gramophone Magazine, August 2017

“Both Padmore and the Sacconi Quartet, who have a major expressive role as accompanists, are at their finest in ‘Soon, we will be free’, the serene, lyrical heart of [In Damascus]…pianist Charles Owen joins the Sacconis for the Piano Quintet, his crisp, incisive playing making a particular impression in the rhythmically buoyant outer movements” BBC Music Magazine, October 2017 ****

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Late Night Lute

Late Night Lute


Dowland:

A Dream

Fortune my foe

Mr John Langton's Pavan

Mr Dowland's Midnight

Goss, S:

The Miller’s Tale

Johnson, R:

Pavan in C minor

2 Almains

Kapsberger:

Passacaglia

Piccinini:

Toccata IV

Partite variate sopra quest' aria francese detta l'Alemana

Corrente III

Rosseter:

Prelude


Inspired by the ambience of the evening concerts he gave at various festivals,Matthew Wadsworth’s new disc is a relaxing programme of music for lute and theorbo.

Matthew Wadsworth has earned a reputation as one of the world’s finest lutenists. Working in the UK, Europe and North America as a soloist and chambermusician, he has appeared at most major concert halls and festivals, and can often be heard on radio, both in live performance and recordings.

Born in 1974, Matthew studied lute at London’s Royal Academy of Music with Nigel North, after which he spent a year at the Royal Conservatory ofMusic in The Hague.

Features the newly commissioned work of ‘The Miller’s Tale’, composed by Stephen Goss for Matthew Wadsworth, which received its world premiere on 6 March 2017 at London’s Wigmore Hall.

Also Includes works by Philip Rosseter, John Downland, Robert Johnson, Alessandro Piccinini, and Johammees Kapsberger.

Matthew Wadsworth’s previous solo disc released on Deux-Elles in 2003 ’14 Silver Strings’ DXL1044) was named Gramophone Editor’s Choice.

“Wadsworth's playing is sensitive and polished throughout, and he draws sumptuous velvet sounds from both the 10-course lute and the 14-course theorbo...Wadsworth's renditions of The Miller's Tale and the challenging variations on La Jeune Fillette by Piccinini are quite masterful.” BBC Music Magazine, August 2017 ****

“The playing in this little theatre of shadows is of course ravishing throughout, with Wadsworth again demonstrating his appreciation of the lute’s propensity for subtle gradations of tone and timbre...That he ends with two of Dowland’s most profound utterances, thus making us end where we began, is further testament to his refined sensibility.” Gramophone Magazine, August 2017

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