Presto News - 11th November 2013

Bach Cantatas from Masaaki Suzuki

Eighteen years ago, in 1995, Masaaki Suzuki and his Bach Collegium Japan (BCJ) began a project which would put them firmly on the world map as one of the leading exponents of Bach’s music in modern times. With the release of Volume 55 their series of the composer’s complete church cantatas – recorded in chronological order – reaches its conclusion. Masaaki was in London last week, and I took the opportunity to meet with him to congratulate him on that monumental achievement, and also to quiz him a little on some of the challenges and decisions he had faced in the process.

Masaaki Suzuki
Masaaki Suzuki

The first challenge I asked him about was the fact that before he came along, Japan was not at all renowned as a place for Baroque music. He formed the BCJ in 1990 and they began their Bach Cantata series of concerts in 1992, and while he himself initially wondered who would come to their performances he was pleased (and perhaps slightly surprised) to discover that there was already very much an existing audience of enthusiastic Bach lovers in Japan. Over the years that audience has grown further, and even for a performance of three pretty unknown cantatas they now always get an audience of over a thousand people at their concerts in Tokyo.

I actually think this lack of a performing tradition locally has probably helped them, as one of the key attributes of this series is the remarkable freshness. It has been prevalent throughout the cycle and combined with the small choir (typically 12 voices, I think) and small period-instrument orchestra it really is an ideal combination. Masaaki and his performers seem to live and breathe this music and there is so much joy and immediacy in their music-making.

We talked a little about soloists (largely although by no means exclusively non-Japanese) and the choir (women rather than boys as Bach would have had). Both decisions were as suspected based on his quest for the best possible artistic results. Although he was far too modest to even agree with me, I think there is a real hope that what he has started will lead to a lasting legacy of Baroque singers in Japan – but those new generations haven’t yet really emerged. The same can’t be said of the instrumentalists who make up the BCJ, though. They are very much already competing with the best in the world. It is simply outstanding playing, virtually faultless, and threatening on occasion to eclipse the singers, who are equally hard to fault!

Another key element of any series like this is the relationship with the record label. In Swedish label BIS and their owner/founder/producer Robert von Bahr they found the ideal partner, and the recorded sound (especially after moving to SACD from volume 28 onwards) has been rightly praised throughout.

For those who asked about the remainder of the secular cantatas yet to be recorded, the good news is that yes, they are still very much planned. I think Masaaki said there were about 5 or 6 more discs of those to come, and also two discs of the Lutheran Masses, one of which is already in the can and will be released next year. After that? Well, he said he wants to carry on exploring works for choir and orchestra based on the Bible, and that we should look forward to Mozart’s Requiem, C minor Mass, and then Mendelssohn.

As many readers will no doubt already know, BIS are kindly offering (exclusively through us) a free 76 minute download of highlights from this series. You can see full details of that sampler here. It is available until the end of the month.

Then to further mark the conclusion of the series we’re pleased to be able to offer 20% off both CDs and downloads on all 55 volumes. Full details of that offer here.

Or, if you’ve simply read the above, haven’t really heard any of the series before, and just want to buy a CD (which I’m very confident you’ll enjoy hugely) then the link to Volume 55 you’ll find below.

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Bach - Cantatas Volume 55

Hana Blažíková, Robin Blaze, Gerd Türk & Peter Kooij, Bach Collegium Japan, Masaaki Suzuki

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Chris O'Reilly - chris@prestoclassical.co.uk

New Releases

11th November 2013

This is just the pick of the recent releases. The New Releases and Future Releases pages are always available for browsing all the new and forthcoming releases.

Hindemith: Piano Sonatas

Markus Becker (piano)

In his three piano sonatas, all written in 1936, Hindemith presents himself not as the rebel and revolutionary of the 1920s, but rather as an heir to the contrapuntal skill and keyboard dexterity of Johann Sebastian Bach. Markus Becker has been acclaimed for his persuasive and authoritative recordings of German repertoire of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

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Sullivan, A: The Beauty Stone

Elin Manahan Thomas (soprano), Toby Spence (tenor), Rebecca Evans (soprano), Alan Opie (baritone), Stephen Gadd (baritone), Catherine Wyn-Rogers (mezzo-soprano), BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Rory Macdonald

Sullivan's The Beauty Stone was a surprising flop at its premiere. The audience was expecting something more in the mould of the composer’s comic operas, and was unprepared for a work of such seriousness. Subsequently, Sullivan made dramatic edits to the score, removing some of the work’s most delightful music, but in this new recording all of the omitted music has been restored.

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Pergolesi: Stabat Mater, Laudate Pueri & Confitebor

Julia Lezhneva (soprano), Philippe Jaroussky (countertenor), I Barocchisti, Diego Fasolis

Diego Fasolis leads I Barocchisti in this programme of works by Pergolesi: the Stabat Mater and Confitebor tibi domine, which call for two high-voiced soloists, and Laudate pueri. Two voices of celestial beauty and expressive poignancy come together on this recording, as countertenor Philippe Jaroussky is joined by soprano Julia Lezhneva.

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Wagner: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg

Gerald Finley (Hans Sachs), Marco Jentzsch (Walther von Stolzing), Anna Gabler (Eva), Johannes Martin Kränzle (Beckmesser), Michaela Selinger (Magdalene), Topi Lehtipuu (David), London Philharmonic Orchestra & The Glyndebourne Chorus, Vladimir Jurowski

The new Opera House at Glyndebourne, which opened in 1994, allowed the possibility of staging Wagner operas. On this recording of the 2011 production of Die Meistersinger, Gerald Finley makes his debut as Hans Sachs, his voice nothing short of glorious. With Vladimir Jurowski at the helm, orchestral textures and colours are kept light and alive, resulting in a sound world somewhat different to most other available recordings.

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Julian Anderson: Fantasias, The Crazed Moon & The Discovery of Heaven

London Philharmonic Orchestra, Vladimir Jurowski, Ryan Wigglesworth (conductors)

Julian Anderson has been the London Philharmonic Orchestra’s Composer in Residence since 2010. This is the first album of his works performed by the Orchestra, and includes one world premiere performance and two world premiere recordings.

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Stenhammar: String Quartets Volume 2

Stenhammar Quartet

On this second disc of the Stenhammar Quartet’s survey, two late works frame a world première recording, namely that of the Quartet in F minor which Stenhammar completed in 1897, but withdrew after its first performance in 1898. While describing the quartet’s middle movements as ‘fresh and joyful’, he expressed severe doubts regarding the final movement and for a long time harboured the idea of replacing it, before finally giving up on the work.

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Che puro ciel: The Rise of Classical Opera

Bejun Mehta (counter-tenor), Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin, René Jacobs

In the preface to Alceste (1767), Christoph Willibald Gluck and his librettist Ranieri de' Calzabigi posited a new direction for opera. They spoke of moving beyond Baroque forms, of striving for a new naturalism in opera. Taken from the height of this Reform period, the arias on this disc reveal composers exploring and experimenting as they create the new forms that bring to opera the noble simplicity of the Classical era.

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Britten: Gloriana

Susan Bullock (Queen Elizabeth I), Toby Spence (Earl of Essex), Patricia Bardon (Countess of Essex), Mark Stone (Lord Mountjoy), Kate Royal (Lady Rich), Chorus & Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Paul Daniel (conductor)

Central to the Royal Opera's Benjamin Britten centenary celebrations was Richard Jones's witty and insightful new production of the operatic pageant written to honour the Coronation, exploring the late life, love and death of Queen Elizabeth I. With powerfully characterised performances by Susan Bullock as Queen Elizabeth and Toby Spence as the dashing and treacherous Earl of Essex, Gloriana is revealed as at once a celebration and a tragedy.

Blu-ray version also available here.

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Radio 3

BBC Radio 3 CD Review

Saturday 9th November 2013

Building a Library - Shostakovich: Symphony No. 8 in C minor, Op. 65

First Choice

Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, Vasily Petrenko

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Disc of the Week

Birth of the Symphony

Handel to Haydn

Academy of Ancient Music, Richard Egarr (director & harpsichord)

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26-Dec-2011 -The year ahead and our latest new development
19-Dec-2011 -Two legendary performances
12-Dec-2011 -Maurizio Pollini plays Chopin
05-Dec-2011 -Christmas roundup
28-Nov-2011 -Havergal Brian’s Gothic Symphony
21-Nov-2011 -Duetti da Camera: Philippe Jaroussky & Max Emanuel Cencic
14-Nov-2011 -Bruckner and Mahler from Haitink and Pappano
07-Nov-2011 -Haydn from the Takács Quartet
31-Oct-2011 -Sublime Schubert from Paul Lewis
24-Oct-2011 -Franz Liszt
17-Oct-2011 -The Decca Sound
10-Oct-2011 -Pavel Haas Quartet the big winners at the Gramophone Awards
03-Oct-2011 -Berlioz's Grande Messe des Morts from Paul McCreesh
26-Sep-2011 -Handel – Agrippina & Germanico
19-Sep-2011 -Wagner’s Flying Dutchman starts PentaTone’s 10th anniversary celebrations
12-Sep-2011 -Schubert's Schwanengesang from Padmore and Lewis
05-Sep-2011 -Gergiev and the LSO conclude their Mahler cycle
29-Aug-2011 -BIS - Maxim Rysanov, Sibelius and a special offer
22-Aug-2011 -Sublime Ravel from Ibragimova and Tiberghien
15-Aug-2011 -Gustavo Dudamel
08-Aug-2011 -Brahms/Schoenberg from Rattle and the Berliner Philharmoniker
01-Aug-2011 -Lucia from the Mariinsky
25-Jul-2011 -Bayreuther Festspiele
18-Jul-2011 -Benjamin Grosvenor
11-Jul-2011 -Rossini’s William Tell
04-Jul-2011 -Bach Motets from Herreweghe
27-Jun-2011 -Sublime Vivaldi from Nathalie Stutzmann
20-Jun-2011 -Beethoven’s Fidelio from Abbado and Kaufmann
13-Jun-2011 -Byrd’s Complete Consort Music
06-Jun-2011 -Vaughan Williams’s The Garden of Proserpine
30-May-2011 -Beethoven's Diabelli Variations from Paul Lewis
23-May-2011 -New DVDs from Glyndebourne
16-May-2011 -Martha Argerich
09-May-2011 -Handel's Ariodante
02-May-2011 -Daniel Barenboim plays Chopin and conducts Tchaikovsky
25-Apr-2011 -Fliter and Ibragimova excel in Beethoven
18-Apr-2011 -Julia Lezhneva sings Rossini
11-Apr-2011 -Lully’s Bellérophon
04-Apr-2011 -Mining the archives
28-Mar-2011 -Rachmaninov's Second Symphony
21-Mar-2011 -Suk's Asrael Symphony
14-Mar-2011 -Pergolesi's Stabat Mater
07-Mar-2011 -Striggio: Mass in 40 Parts
28-Feb-2011 -Tomás Luis de Victoria
21-Feb-2011 -Lisa Batiashvili - Echoes of Time
14-Feb-2011 -Kate Royal: A Lesson in Love
07-Feb-2011 -Simon Rattle's new Mahler 2
31-Jan-2011 -Percy Grainger
24-Jan-2011 -Arne: Artaxerxes
17-Jan-2011 -Handel and Strauss from Dessay and Damrau
10-Jan-2011 -Nielsen Symphonies from Colin Davis and the LSO
03-Jan-2011 -The Genius of Mozart
27-Dec-2010 -The year ahead
20-Dec-2010 -Sheet Music now online, and other recent developments
13-Dec-2010 -Robert Schumann
06-Dec-2010 -Vivaldi Operas - Ottone in Villa and Ercole
29-Nov-2010 -Christmas Releases
22-Nov-2010 -Bach Cantatas - the Gardiner pilgrimage
15-Nov-2010 -Henryk Mikolaj Górecki
08-Nov-2010 -Schubert: Piano Duets
01-Nov-2010 -Verdi's Otello from the LSO and Colin Davis
25-Oct-2010 -The Three Baroque Tenors
18-Oct-2010 -Dame Joan Sutherland
11-Oct-2010 -Bach's Violin Concertos from Rachel Podger and Brecon Baroque
04-Oct-2010 -Gramophone Awards announced last Friday
27-Sep-2010 -Jonas Kaufmann: Verismo Arias
20-Sep-2010 -Wagner's Parsifal from the Mariinsky and Gergiev
13-Sep-2010 -Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte from René Jacobs
06-Sep-2010 -Puccini's forgotten masterpiece - La Rondine
30-Aug-2010 -Santiago a cappella
23-Aug-2010 -Elīna Garanča goes Spanish
16-Aug-2010 -Rued Langgaard - Music of the Spheres
09-Aug-2010 -Gramophone Awards - The Finalists
02-Aug-2010 -50 Years of the Grosses Festspielhaus Salzburg
26-Jul-2010 -Gustav Mahler
19-Jul-2010 -Sir Charles Mackerras
12-Jul-2010 -Beethoven - Paul Lewis and the BBC Proms
05-Jul-2010 -A Russian Sibelius cycle
28-Jun-2010 -Ronald Brautigam's Beethoven
21-Jun-2010 -Carlos Kleiber
14-Jun-2010 -Handel's Berenice
07-Jun-2010 -Channel Classics
31-May-2010 -Alfredo Casella
24-May-2010 -Shostakovich Preludes & Fugues from Melnikov
17-May-2010 -The multi-talented Julia Fischer
10-May-2010 -Nimbus
03-May-2010 -Leonard Bernstein's Omnibus Broadcasts
26-Apr-2010 -Frédéric Chopin
19-Apr-2010 -Wagner Lohengrin - BBC Awards
12-Apr-2010 -Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique
05-Apr-2010 -Rossini: Il barbiere di Siviglia and Joyce DiDonato
29-Mar-2010 -Romantic Piano Concertos
22-Mar-2010 -Robin Ticciati and Brahms' Choral Works
15-Mar-2010 -Mozart Symphonies from Mackerras - Volume 2
08-Mar-2010 -Bernard Coutaz and Harmonia Mundi
01-Mar-2010 -Thomas Adès
22-Feb-2010 -Strauss: Alpine Symphony
15-Feb-2010 -Handel: Giulio Cesare and the Brockes Passion
08-Feb-2010 -Debussy and the Prix de Rome
01-Feb-2010 -Testament
25-Jan-2010 -BBC Music Magazine Awards Shortlist
18-Jan-2010 -Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet
11-Jan-2010 -Bach for Violin and Voice
04-Jan-2010 -A Ring cycle for the 21st Century
28-Dec-2009 -Anniversaries - 2009 and 2010
21-Dec-2009 -Richard Farrell
14-Dec-2009 -Thomas Tallis's Secret Garden
07-Dec-2009 -El Sistema
30-Nov-2009 -Christmas Releases
23-Nov-2009 -Kirsten Flagstad
16-Nov-2009 -Nikolaus Harnoncourt
09-Nov-2009 -Two important Elgar rarities
02-Nov-2009 -Felix Mendelssohn
26-Oct-2009 -Cecilia Bartoli and the world of Castratos
19-Oct-2009 -Winterreise from Padmore and Lewis
12-Oct-2009 -Tchaikovsky's Moscow Cantata
05-Oct-2009 -The Quatuor Ebène and the Gramophone Awards
28-Sep-2009 -Unknown Britten
21-Sep-2009 -Australian Eloquence
14-Sep-2009 -Julia Fischer plays Schubert
07-Sep-2009 -Bach Cantata bargain of the year
31-Aug-2009 -Rattle conducts Brahms
24-Aug-2009 -Bruckner from the Concertgebouw
17-Aug-2009 -Gramophone Awards 2009 - Finalists
10-Aug-2009 -Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle
03-Aug-2009 -The Vivaldi Edition
27-Jul-2009 -Diaghilev and The Ballets Russes
20-Jul-2009 -Sir Edward Downes
13-Jul-2009 -Brilliant Classics
06-Jul-2009 -Tomás Luis de Victoria
29-Jun-2009 -Britten's homage to Purcell
22-Jun-2009 -The Three Tenors
15-Jun-2009 -Penguin Rosettes and Building a Library
08-Jun-2009 -Masterclasses
01-Jun-2009 -Gergiev at the Mariinsky
25-May-2009 -Two recent re-discoveries light up Martinu year
18-May-2009 -Idomeneo from René Jacobs
11-May-2009 -A&R and Kate Royal's Midsummer Night
04-May-2009 -Chandos Records - 30 years young
27-Apr-2009 -Rachmaninov Preludes
20-Apr-2009 -20 Years of NMC
13-Apr-2009 -BBC Music Magazine Awards
06-Apr-2009 -Shostakovich 11 from the RLPO
30-Mar-2009 -BIS and the Sibelius Edition
23-Mar-2009 -Haydn - 'The Father of the Symphony'
16-Mar-2009 -George Frederic Handel
09-Mar-2009 -Bach's Brandenburg Concertos
02-Mar-2009 -Angela Gheorghiu in Puccini's Madama Butterfly
23-Feb-2009 -The world's most celebrated violins
16-Feb-2009 -Copyright to be extended
09-Feb-2009 -A feast of Early Music
02-Feb-2009 -Sarah Connolly gets Purcell year off to a flier
26-Jan-2009 -Monteverdi as you've never heard it before!
19-Jan-2009 -Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin put Platti firmly on the map
12-Jan-2009 -Hamelin proves his real class with Chopin
05-Jan-2009 -Lindsays lead the bargains
29-Dec-2008 -Jerusalem - in search of peace
22-Dec-2008 -Looking ahead - Handel, Haydn and more
15-Dec-2008 -2008 - A great year for DVDs
08-Dec-2008 -Top new Christmas recommendations
01-Dec-2008 -Richard Hickox
24-Nov-2008 -The World's Great Orchestras, and Euros and US Dollars now accepted
17-Nov-2008 -Lost manuscripts continue to be found
10-Nov-2008 -Haydn's String Quartets
03-Nov-2008 -Tchaikovsky's Manfred Symphony
27-Oct-2008 -Contemporary Music
20-Oct-2008 -Sir Peter Moores
13-Oct-2008 -Vivaldi in a new light
06-Oct-2008 -Americans in Pyongyang
29-Sep-2008 -Paul Lewis and the Gramophone Awards 2008
22-Sep-2008 -Songs her mother taught her
15-Sep-2008 -Vernon Handley
08-Sep-2008 -Zig Zag and the Atrium Quartet
01-Sep-2008 -Gramophone Awards nominations
25-Aug-2008 -Beautiful Messiah and Exquisite Morales
18-Aug-2008 -Great Pianists of the Past
11-Aug-2008 -Classical Television Broadcasts on the Internet
04-Aug-2008 -Chloë Hanslip and the unfamiliar
28-Jul-2008 -Leopold Godowsky and the virtuoso pianist
21-Jul-2008 -Linn Records
14-Jul-2008 -Vaughan Williams
07-Jul-2008 -Olivier Messiaen
30-Jun-2008 -Reginald Goodall's revelatory 'Mastersingers'
23-Jun-2008 -The French Baroque - 200 Years of Versailles
16-Jun-2008 -Bach Fugues from Onyx and the Emersons
09-Jun-2008 -New DVD page and Special Offer
02-Jun-2008 -Time to re-evaluate Miaskovsky
26-May-2008 -Superb Scholl sings Dowland and his circle
19-May-2008 -Fiesta! - Dudamel and the Venezuelans
12-May-2008 -The Guarneri Piano Trio and the label Praga
05-May-2008 -A La Bohème for all
28-Apr-2008 -Beethoven and Period Instruments
21-Apr-2008 -The Jerusalem Quartet
14-Apr-2008 -Nigel Kennedy
07-Apr-2008 -Paul Lewis's Beethoven
31-Mar-2008 -Ingrid Fliter
24-Mar-2008 -Mel Bonis
17-Mar-2008 -Stunning new Haydn Creation from Paul McCreesh
10-Mar-2008 -Hilary Hahn plays Schoenberg and Sibelius
03-Mar-2008 -Rattle and Gergiev on Mahler
25-Feb-2008 -Handel Organ Concertos
18-Feb-2008 -Late Mozart Symphonies
11-Feb-2008 -Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Project
04-Feb-2008 -Arvo Pärt's Spiegel im Spiegel
28-Jan-2008 -Undeservedly neglected music - John Marsh and Juan de Araujo
21-Jan-2008 -New Bach Cantatas page
14-Jan-2008 -Composers' Own Recordings
07-Jan-2008 -Francis Xavier and Jordi Savall
31-Dec-2007 -50 Years of Harmonia Mundi
24-Dec-2007 -Last thoughts on 2007, first on 2008
17-Dec-2007 -Discs of the Year
10-Dec-2007 -Stockhausen
03-Dec-2007 -25 Years of the Compact Disc
26-Nov-2007 -Pacini and the importance of first performances
19-Nov-2007 -Christmas music worth hearing
12-Nov-2007 -The forgotten Maria
05-Nov-2007 -Why composers marked repeats
29-Oct-2007 -Bach B minor Mass from Suzuki
22-Oct-2007 -New Mahler 8 from Pierre Boulez
15-Oct-2007 -Lucerne Festival Orchestra
08-Oct-2007 -Julia Fischer and the Gramophone Awards
01-Oct-2007 -Mozart - Don Giovanni from René Jacobs
24-Sep-2007 -Natalie Clein and the Elgar Cello Concerto
17-Sep-2007 -Joshua Bell
10-Sep-2007 -Luciano Pavarotti
03-Sep-2007 -Kate Royal
27-Aug-2007 -Gramophone Awards - finalists revealed
20-Aug-2007 -Exciting new baroque rediscovery - Conti's David
13-Aug-2007 -Venezuelan Youth Orchestra the envy of the world
06-Aug-2007 -Music's Best-kept Secrets
30-Jul-2007 -Haydn - the most underrated great composer
23-Jul-2007 -Beethoven Piano Sonatas
16-Jul-2007 -BBC Proms 2007
09-Jul-2007 -Elin Manahan Thomas
02-Jul-2007 -Open minds and superb Bernarda Fink
25-Jun-2007 -Excited by another batch of re-issues?
18-Jun-2007 -Composer Works lists now published
11-Jun-2007 -Padmore and Bostridge sing Handel
04-Jun-2007 -Elgar's Enigma Variations
28-May-2007 -Still suffering some seventy years on?
21-May-2007 -Buying Opera on CD or DVD
14-May-2007 -Debussy's new champion
07-May-2007 -Schütz's Legacy
30-Apr-2007 -Mstislav Rostropovich
23-Apr-2007 -Missed Opportunities
16-Apr-2007 -BBC Music Magazine Awards
09-Apr-2007 -The way we listen
02-Apr-2007 -Too much Mozart?
26-Mar-2007 -Harpsichord or Piano?
19-Mar-2007 -Strauss's Four Last Songs
12-Mar-2007 -The importance of government support
05-Mar-2007 -Do today's musicians all sound the same?

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