Presto News - 18th December 2015
Presto Personal Favourites from 2015
We feel very lucky at Presto that we get to listen to so many amazing recordings; 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, we are continuing our tradition of asking each member of our editorial team to choose a disc from the past year that they 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!
Daniil Trifonov started playing the piano at the age of five, not because he wanted to be a pianist, but because he wanted to be a composer. He won the Tchaikovsky and Rubinstein competitions at the age of twenty, and has fast established himself as one of the leading pianists of his generation.
Aiming to continue in the tradition of great Russian composer-pianists, Trifonov’s disc of Rachmaninov Variations (released late August) suggests he looks well set to do just that. In a programme comprising three sets of Rachmaninov’s Variations along with his own composition ‘Rachmaniana’ – a kind of homage to the great composer – he demonstrates his effortless, incredible technique, combined with a maturity in music making way beyond his years.
Daniil Trifonov (piano)
I know, I know, you don’t feel you need Yet Another Disc of Mozart Arias (especially one that’s interspersed with movements of one of the symphonies…). Bear with me. In terms of content there are no surprises (no obscure excerpts from the early operas, for instance) on Christian Gerhaher’s latest disc (released in September on Sony), but the integrity and immediacy of his portraits of Papageno, Guglielmo, Count Almaviva and Figaro, Giovanni and Leporello will make you feel you’re encountering these familiar characters for the very first time in all their glorious complexity and variety.
Playing to the gallery isn’t at all what Gerhaher’s about, but it’s as if we get a vocal costume-change between tracks as he moves from master to servant and back again; every time I listen to this disc it puts a smile on my face and a lump in my throat (often in quick succession, and sometimes even simultaneously), and I really can’t say fairer than that.
Christian Gerhaher (baritone), Freiburger Barockorchester, Gottfried von der Goltz
Edward Gardner conducts orchestral works by William Walton, beginning with a genuinely creepy, unsettling account of the Improvisations on an Impromptu of Benjamin Britten, featuring some searchingly powerful playing from the BBC Symphony Orchestra.
They are joined for the Cello Concerto by Paul Watkins; from his very first entry it’s clear that his is going to be a thoughtful interpretation, full of beautiful tone in the introspective first movement, but also impressively virtuosic in the second. The end of the piece, as the ticking motif from the first movement returns and the music fades to nothing, is spellbinding.
Concluding the disc is a performance of Symphony No. 2. Sometimes thought to be something of an oddity in Walton’s output, and certainly much less frequently performed than the First Symphony, in Gardner’s hands it comes across as a completely convincing symphonic statement. The playing is unfailingly committed and colourful, with a sensationally scintillating account of the slow movement being a particular highlight for me.
Walton: Symphony No. 2 & Cello Concerto
Paul Watkins (cello), BBC Symphony Orchestra, Edward Gardner
Although it may not be to everyone's taste - and certainly fiercely divided opinion in the Presto office when it was released - this collection of choral works by the contemporary Ukrainian composer Valentin Silvestrov is one of the finest discs I've ever heard. Silvestrov's musical voice has something of Pärt and something of Lauridsen about it, but he has a more vivid sense of harmony than either, and he's also a dab hand at writing a memorable tune.
The basses of Sigvards Kļava's Latvian Radio Choir deserve particular praise - the notoriously sepulchral bottom B flat of Rachmaninov's All-Night Vigil pales into insignificance next to some of Silvestrov's profundo lines, and the combined effect of this, lusciously rich harmonies and some subtle echo effects is electrifying.
Nearly all the repertoire is sacred, of course; there are several Church Slavonic works taken from the Russian Orthodox liturgy, two beautiful Christmas Lullabies in Ukrainian and a haunting Ave Maria that's surpassed even Bruckner to become my new favourite setting of that text.
Valentin Silvestrov: To Thee We Sing
Latvian Radio Choir, Sigvards Kļava
Presto Interview – Beatrice Rana
Rising Italian piano star Beatrice Rana makes her Warner debut with a double-bill of Russian concertos - the ever-popular Tchaikovsky and Prokofiev's immense Second Concerto, with Antonio Pappano conducting the Santa Cecilia Orchestra.
Katherine talked to Beatrice about the technical challenges of these two heavyweight concertos, her history of winning high-profile competitions, and her future plans.
Presto CD – 60 New Decca Titles
This week sees something of a focus on the piano, with Liszt from Jorge Bolet and Vladimir Ashkenazy's set of Beethoven Piano Concertos with Zubin Mehta and the Vienna Philharmonic; there's also Shostakovich from Bernard Haitink and the Concertgebouw Orchestra, a stirring disc of brass works from the Philip Jones Brass Ensemble, and much more.
The Presto Team - firstname.lastname@example.org
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 50% off the full price.
Alfred Brendel: The Complete Philips Recordings
Decca releases Alfred Brendel’s complete Philips legacy for the first time. Developed in close collaboration with Brendel himself, this 114-CD edition includes studio albums, live recordings and radio broadcasts. Highlights include three cycles of Beethoven’s Piano Concertos, two cycles of Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas, Mozart Piano Concertos under Neville Marriner and Charles Mackerras, two cycles of late piano works by Schubert, and many other treasures.
Sibelius: Symphonies Nos. 1-7 (complete)
Berliner Philharmoniker, Sir Simon Rattle
In 2015, to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Sibelius's birth, Simon Rattle and the Berliner Philharmoniker presented the complete cycle of his symphonies. This recording presents the symphonies on four CDs, and two Blu-ray discs as HD video, in uncompressed audio resolution and DTS surround sound.
The Choir of King’s College Cambridge: The Complete Argo Recordings
This set celebrates David Willcocks's tenure from 1957-1973 and shows off the choir’s trademark richness and purity of sound. Included are many of the choral greats, such as Bach's St John Passion, Tallis's Spem in Alium, and Allegri’s Miserere, all in the glorious acoustics of King’s College Chapel. Six of these albums are released on CD for the first time - Willcocks's 1964 Festival of Lessons & Carols and Tye Masses, and four albums from his predecessor, Boris Ord.
Elisabeth Schwarzkopf - The Complete Recitals 1952-1974
The 100th birthday of Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, one of the reigning sopranos of the second half of the 20th century, fell on 9th December 2015. She died in 2006, and is admired above all in music of the Austro-German tradition, both opera and song. This 31-CD set gathers together all the recital programmes of song, opera and operetta that Schwarzkopf recorded for EMI between 1952 and 1974 with Walter Legge – who became the soprano’s husband in 1953 – as producer. The recordings have been remastered to the highest standards in 24-bit/96kHz.
Stravinsky Complete Edition
Stravinsky’s complete works are performed by an array of great interpreters including Abbado, Ashkenazy, Bernstein, Boulez, Chailly, Levine, Mutter, Nagano, Pletnev, Pollini, and many others, as well as Stravinsky himself conducting a 1935 recording of his Violin Concerto. The set includes historical recordings, such as Igor Markevitch's recording of The Soldier's Tale with Jean Cocteau as narrator, as well as the sensational recording from 2014 of the two-piano version of The Rite of Spring performed by Martha Argerich and Daniel Barenboim.
Shostakovich: Symphonies Nos. 1-15 (complete)
Alexander Vinogradov (bass) & Gal James (soprano), Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, Huddersfield Choral Society, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Choir, Vasily Petrenko
Each release of Vasily Petrenko’s cycle of Shostakovich’s symphonies with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra created a sensation between volume 1 in 2009 and the final instalment in 2014. The individual recordings remain a leading choice amongst collectors and critics. Now they appear together in this boxed set of 11 CDs.
Marcel Dupré: The Mercury Living Presence Recordings
Marcel Dupré (organ)
Newly-remastered from the original tapes and available here for the first time in one 10-CD set come the complete Mercury Living Presence recordings of Marcel Dupré, as well as two albums originally released on Philips. No fewer than five of these albums appear on CD for the first time, including recordings at Saint-Sulpice in Paris. As well as his own compositions, Dupré performs music by Bach, Franck, Messiaen, Saint-Saëns and Widor.
Mahler Symphonies Live in Concert: The Klaus Tennstedt Recordings
London Philharmonic Orchestra, Klaus Tennstedt
This 9-CD set features live recordings of a selection of Mahler’s symphonies documenting the extraordinary relationship between Klaus Tennstedt and the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Each symphony in this set has been previously released on the LPO label to critical acclaim. Exclusive to this collection however is an earlier performance of Symphony No. 2, recorded in 1981, and featuring soloists Heather Harper and Doris Soffel.
Adolf Busch & The Busch Quartet: The Complete Warner Recordings
Adolf Busch (violin), The Busch Quartet
Celebrated for his unique style of phrasing and his belief that musical expression should be prized above technical showmanship, German violinist Adolf Busch was one of the first leading artists of his day to embrace the recording process, following the birth of the 78rpm disc. A rich and significant catalogue ensued, from solo and duo works to some of chamber music’s most famous masterpieces.
Jean Martinon: The Late Years
This 14-CD collection focuses on Jean Martinon’s activity with the Orchestre National de l’O.R.T.F between 1968 and 1975. The box brings together recordings he made for both EMI and Erato and also includes the first commercial releases of live recordings kept at France’s Institut national de l'audiovisuel (INA), dating from 1970 (Roussel’s Symphony No 3), 1971 (Bartók’s Miraculous Mandarin) and 1972 (Falla’s complete Three-Cornered Hat).
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