Presto News - 23rd December 2013
Presto Personal Favourites from 2013
We feel very lucky at Presto that we get to listen to so many amazing recordings; this year especially has been a fantastic one for new releases, and unfortunately there are just too many discs for us to be able to feature in our weekly newsletter.
As this is a somewhat lean time of year for new releases, therefore, we thought that this week we would do something slightly different, and get each of our editorial staff to choose a disc from the past year that we really loved, but which we simply didn't have the space to write about at the time of release.
So, here are some overlooked gems that you may have missed this year; we hope you'll want to explore them and maybe make a new discovery or two! Finally, it only remains for us to wish you a Merry Christmas from everyone at Presto!
As we’ve come to expect from the Pavel Haas Quartet, we’re treated here to performances of not only great refinement and polish, but also real emotional depth. For their fifth disc with Supraphon they’ve chosen two of the cornerstones of the whole chamber music repertoire.
Schubert’s D minor String Quartet (nicknamed Death and the Maiden), with its haunting second movement based on the composer’s song of the same name, ripples with nervous energy, as fiery and explosive fortissimos are contrasted with tender and delicate quieter passages. A combination of subtle elasticity of tempo whilst never slowing too much gives this performance great structural coherency from beginning to end.
The great C major String Quintet, with one of the most sublime slow movements in all music, doesn’t disappoint either. Ishizaka’s second cello fits perfectly into the quartet’s lush and rounded sound, and phrasing, articulation and dynamic contrasts are all carefully thought out and realised.
Schubert: Death And The Maiden & String Quintet In C Major
Pavel Haas Quartet (with Danjulo Ishizaka (cello))
I’ll admit that I was suffering from mild Wagner fatigue by the autumn, so Marc Minkowski’s double-Dutchman (pairing Wagner’s original one-act version of Der fliegende Holländer with Pierre-Louis Dietsch’s treatment of the same story) slipped under my radar until quite recently.
The Dietsch is great fun, and worlds away from Wagner: I’d have guessed Meyerbeer, Rossini in Guillaume Tell mode or possibly even early French Verdi from a blind tasting. Supremely tuneful and harmonically conservative, it’s full of set pieces including rollicking choruses, several ecstatic love-duets and showpiece arias packed with the sort of vocal gymnastics which Wagner deplored. Sally Matthews steals the show in the florid but highly dramatic role of Minna (Senta).
The Wagner’s a revelation too: the period sonorities of Minkowski’s Louvre forces underline just how ‘early’ and Weberish this work feels in comparison to Wagner’s mature style, and there’s some splendidly visceral singing from the principals.
Wagner: Der fliegende Holländer
and Dietsch: Le Vaisseau Fantôme
Wagner: Evgeny Nikitin (Der Holländer), Ingela Brimberg (Senta), Eric Cutler (Georg), Mika Kares (Donald)
Dietsch: Russell Braun (Troïl), Sally Matthews (Minna), Bernard Richter (Magnus), Eric Cutler (Éric)
Les Musiciens du Louvre Grenoble, Marc Minkowski
Mark-Anthony Turnage’s new piece, Speranza (Hope), was commissioned by the LSO, with each of its four movements bearing the name of ‘hope’ in a different language (Arabic, German, Gaelic, and Hebrew). Turnage incorporates some unfamiliar sounds in the form of the cimbalom and the duduk (a traditional Armenian instrument, sounding something like a cross between an oboe and a soprano saxophone), which blend beautifully with the virtuosic playing from every section of the orchestra. There are some wonderfully haunting passages, and a quirky, rhythmic third movement that for me is the highlight of the work.
Speaking of fantastic playing, the other piece on the disc is Turnage’s Trumpet Concerto, From the Wreckage, with Håkan Hardenberger as soloist. Hardenberger has to change instruments during the course of the piece, and the ease with which he switches from a beautifully creamy flugelhorn tone to sweet-toned piccolo trumpet is just astonishing – a magnificent performance.
Turnage: Speranza & From the Wreckage
Håkan Hardenberger (flugelhorn, trumpet, piccolo trumpet), London Symphony Orchestra, Daniel Harding
Cipriano de Rore is mostly known as the father of the madrigal, but he also composed a considerable quantity of motets and Masses that seamlessly adapt this secular style to sacred texts; one disc that managed to slip through the net for me this year is the Brabant Ensemble’s pairing of two of his finest Masses, the Missa ‘Doulce mémoire’ and the Missa a note negre.
Both works are prime examples of the “parody” mass – the use of a pre-existing melody as the basis for the work. The Missa ‘Doulce mémoire’ is based on one of the pop hits of the Sixteenth Century, a chanson by Pierre Regnault dit Sandrin, while the Missa a note negre is derived from a song by de Rore himself. The titular “black notes” are the unusually short note values that this intricate work uses – represented, of course, by black noteheads on the page.
The Brabant Ensemble give this music a delightful lucidity – the complexity of de Rore’s part-writing comes across clearly, and the nuances of mood are expertly judged.
De Rore: Missa 'Doulce mémoire' & Missa a note negre
The Brabant Ensemble, Stephen Rice
The Presto Team - email@example.com
Recent Boxed Sets
No new releases this week, so instead we thought you might be interested in our pick of the best boxed sets from the past few months that you may have missed out on. All of the items mentioned below are featured in our current boxed set promotion, where we're offering up to 40% off the full price. Click here to see more details of the promotion.
Boulez Conducts Mahler: Complete Recordings on Deutsche Grammophon
Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Wiener Philharmoniker, The Cleveland Orchestra, Pierre Boulez
Pierre Boulez’s complete Mahler cycle of symphonies and songs, which started almost 20 years ago, is now presented in a single set of 14 CDs at budget price. The set features orchestras such as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Wiener Philharmoniker, and Cleveland Orchestra, and top soloists such as Christine Schäfer, Anne Sofie von Otter, Juliane Banse, Magdalena Kožená, Thomas Quasthoff, Violeta Urmana, and Michael Schade.
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Britten: The Complete Operas
Artists including Peter Pears, Janet Baker, Heather Harper, Claire Watson, Philip Langridge, and many others
Britten created operas which defined and shaped the genre: opera was never the same after Peter Grimes in 1945. The set comes with a detailed article by Andrew Huth, full track listings and recording information. Each opera is conducted by Britten where he recorded the work.
Beethoven: Piano Sonatas Nos. 1-32 (Complete)
François-Frédéric Guy (piano)
This set brings together Beethoven’s complete piano sonatas, recorded live by François-Frédéric Guy during the concerts he gave at the Arsenal in Metz, France. He sheds fascinating light on this cycle, of course recorded many times but here approached with an élan and spontaneity unique to concerts.
Domingo: The Verdi Opera Collection
Plácido Domingo (tenor)
The Verdi Opera Collection brings together the great Spanish tenor’s classic RCA and Sony Classical recordings of six complete Verdi operas on 15 CDs. The five RCA recordings all date from the first two decades of Domingo’s international career (1969–1978), when his gloriously burnished tone gleamed brightest.
Sir Colin Davis: The Philips Years
Staatskapelle Dresden, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra
Originally planned as an 85th birthday tribute, this set documents over three decades of exceptional artistry by Sir Colin Davis, one of the musical pillars of the Philips label (now part of Decca Classics), who died on Sunday, 14th April 2013. He was a musician of incomparable integrity and class.
Strauss: The Great Operas
Artists including: Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Lucia Popp, Nicolai Gedda, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Christa Ludwig, Eva Marton, Wolfgang Sawallisch, Herbert von Karajan
From the violence of Elektra to the quiet and witty leave-taking of Capriccio, Richard Strauss continually renewed both his own style and the genre of opera itself over the course of a career spanning half a century. Here are ten of his greatest operas, featuring the finest Straussian singers and conductors of the last half-century.
Mozart: 45 Symphonies
Danish National Chamber Orchestra, Adam Fischer
Seven years of work come to completion with this release of forty-five symphonies, including eight unnumbered youthful works. Strongly influenced by historical performance practice, but with modern instruments and in fantastic sound quality, the Danish National Chamber Orchestra and their Austro-Hungarian chief conductor Adam Fischer make Mozart’s music sound more vital and inventive than ever.
Janet Baker: The Great EMI Recordings
Dame Janet Baker (mezzo-soprano)
This 20-disc set from EMI includes classic recordings of music by Berlioz, Elgar, Mahler, Schubert, and many others. Nearly 25% of this collection has not been released on CD before, including Monteverdi and Scarlatti with Raymond Leppard, duets with Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and several recordings of English and French songs.
Carlo Maria Giulini Boxed Sets from Warner Classics
Carlo Maria Giulini (conductor)
Three boxed sets featuring the legendary conductor, Carlo Maria Giulini, entitled The Chicago Years, The Concerto Recordings, and The London Years.
Lutosławski 100th Anniversary Edition Box (Complete Symphonies and other Orchestral works)
Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra, Antoni Wit (conductor)
The genius of Lutosławski was evident from his 1938 Symphonic Variations. The years after the war brought a return to more conventional national modes of composition, heard in his Little Suite and Concerto for Orchestra. Later works have allowed a more experimental approach on a broader palette, such as his Second Symphony. This 10-CD set includes all of his major works, including symphonies, concertos, and choral and vocal works.
BBC Radio 3 CD Review
Saturday 21st December 2013
Building a Library - Dvořák: Symphony No. 6 in D major, Op. 60
(coupled with Symphonies 4 & 5, and other short works by Dvořák)
London Symphony Orchestra, István Kertész
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Disc of the Week
Boris Giltburg: Romantic Sonatas
Boris Giltburg (piano)
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