Presto News - 14th October 2016
Bach and Telemann cantatas from Philippe Jaroussky
With last week’s Liszt Études from Daniil Trifonov still ringing in my ears, today’s disc is all about transcendence of a very different variety: Bach and Telemann sacred cantatas from Philippe Jaroussky, in a recording of such radiance and beauty that it almost seems sacrilege to pick it apart even to anatomise its virtues.
Jaroussky pairs two of Bach’s best-known and most-recorded solo cantatas, (Ich habe genug and Vergnügte Ruh’), with two less familiar works from Telemann’s gargantuan output in the genre (I thought Bach was prolific on the cantata front until I realised a few years ago that Telemann wrote nearly 2000!), all on the theme of transfiguration through suffering. The pure-voiced French countertenor has often been one for thinking outside the box in previous projects (his recordings of French mélodies and chansons more usually undertaken by mezzos are favourites of mine, particularly the collection of Verlaine settings released last year), and this is his first recording of a composer who’s often considered so central to the countertenor repertoire.
Indeed, it’s his first German-language recording full stop, and right from the second syllable of Vergnügte Ruh’ it’s immediately apparent that he’s at home: the German vowel-sounds somehow tap straight into the special qualities of a voice that’s instantly recognisable for its cleanness, focus and androgynous beauty. And Bach’s long lines and intervals prove the ideal showcase for the evenness and homogeneity of Jaroussky’s tone: unlike another of my favourite high countertenors, Franco Fagioli, who’s all about dramatic register-shifts and gear-changes, Jaroussky’s singing is seamless and at times almost self-effacing, entirely appropriate in music that’s all about the negation of the ego. (All four works here are essentially meditations on rising above earthly temptations and torments, though when virtuosity is called for – for instance in the final florid aria of Telemann’s Jesus liegt in letzten Zügen - he’s supremely equal to the task). He also works the text, particularly in Bach’s dramatic recitatives, with care and clarity, and the frequent sustained notes (even at the bottom of the range, which seems to be filling out a little with age) either bloom organically or are simply allowed to hang in the air untouched – nothing’s pushed, bent or otherwise messed with, and the effect is mesmerising.
There’s wonderfully vibrant playing throughout from the Freiburger Barockorchester: the full-sounding strings are a treat, especially in the opening aria of ‘Vergnügte Ruh’, and Ann-Kathrine Brüggemann’s oboe obbligato in the two Bach cantatas almost seems like an extension of Jaroussky’s voice. The Telemann cantatas were both very welcome discoveries which merit repeated listening – transposed up the octave here, they’re otherwise only available in their original versions for bass in eloquent accounts from Klaus Mertens (who, incidentally, appears on another superb disc of baroque cantatas that’s out today on Challenge) – very much worth checking out for the first-ever recording of Handel’s later version of Tu fedel? Tu costante?, which receives thrilling advocacy from Cuban soprano Yetzabel Arias Fernandez, Ton Koopman and the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra).
Competition on disc is certainly stiff for the two Bach cantatas, and for Ich habe genug in particular (Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau alone recorded it three times); other recordings, perhaps, have conveyed more of a sense of pain transcended (Lorraine Hunt Lieberson’s searing accounts of the work towards the end of her life spring most keenly to mind), but the calm joyfulness and sheer serenity of Jaroussky’s Bach make this a precious recording for me, and one to which I can see myself returning time and again when in need of some ‘vergnügte Ruh‘ of my own. Having heard what Jaroussky can do with German text and with reflections on awakening from dark nights of the soul, I’m gunning for him stray back into mezzo territory and have a crack at Mahler’s Rückert-Lieder next…
JS Bach & Telemann: Sacred Cantatas (Deluxe Edition with DVD)
Philippe Jaroussky (countertenor), Freiburger Barockorchester
JS Bach & Telemann: Sacred Cantatas (Standard, CD-only Edition)
Philippe Jaroussky (countertenor), Freiburger Barockorchester
Presto Interview – Daniel Behle on Mozart, Wagner and Mein Hamburg
Katherine talks to the German tenor about his recent musical activities - a critically lauded Così fan tutte, a move into Wagnerian repertoire and a very unusual recital disc that sees him pay tribute to the city where he was born.
Gramophone Editor's Choices – October 2016
A real blockbusting lineup of repertoire this month, with Nelson Goerner's Hammerklavier and Edward Gardner's Gurrelieder with the Bergen Philharmonic among the choices, plus Alexandre Tharaud's account of Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto No. 2, Mahan Esfahani's Goldberg Variations and Semyon Bychkov's Tchaikovsky 6 with the Czech Philharmonic!
Presto Interview – Robert King on A Voice from Heaven
David talks to the King's Consort's founder and conductor about his latest project - pairing a series of well-known and well-loved British anthems with lesser-known settings of the same words. It's an intriguing way to uncover new repertoire, and see how the same text can inspire such different responses from different composers.
Katherine Cooper - firstname.lastname@example.org
14th October 2016
New on Naxos - October releases
A new initiative for you this month in the form of a dedicated Naxos October 2016 New Release Brochure where you can browse, read about, and listen to excerpts of all the exciting new Naxos releases out this month.
Highlights include Mahler songs from Roderick Williams, Spanish violin concertos from Tianwa Yang, and Haydn from the Goldmund Quartet. (The 'Buy Now' links will bring you back to the recording on the Presto Classical website.) Find out More...
The Tchaikovsky Project Volume 1
Czech Philharmonic, Semyon Bychkov
Marking the start of Decca’s first Tchaikovsky cycle for nearly forty years, the Czech Philharmonic under the baton of Semyon Bychkov perform the Pathétique Symphony, paired with the Fantasy Overture, Romeo & Juliet. Future recordings covering all the Symphonies, Piano Concertos, and other orchestral works will follow.
Alwyn Mellor (soprano), Anna Larsson (mezzo-soprano), Stuart Skelton (tenor), Thomas Allen (speaker), Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra, Edward Gardner
Recorded live and marking the pinnacle of the Bergen Philharmonic's 250th anniversary celebrations, Edward Gardner's interpretation of Schoenberg’s Gurre-Lieder involves 350 performers, including exceptional soloists such as Stuart Skelton, Alwyn Mellor, Anna Larsson, and Thomas Allen.
Stravinsky: The Firebird and Bartok: The Miraculous Mandarin & Piano Concerto No. 3
Yefim Bronfman (piano), London Symphony Orchestra, Valery Gergiev
On 24th October 2015 at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, Valery Gergiev took to the rostrum for his penultimate concert as Principal Conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra. An explosive programme of Stravinsky (The Firebird) and Bartók (Piano Concerto No. 3 with Yefim Bronfman and the suite from The Miraculous Mandarin), this live recording showcases the very best music-making that Gergiev and the LSO can produce.
Bach, J S: Sonatas & Partitas for solo violin, BWV1001-1006
Kyung Wha Chung (violin)
After a career break of more than a decade, Kyung Wha Chung has announced the decision to return to the recording studio. With this album she fulfils a lifelong dream of recording the complete violin solo works by J.S. Bach, a project very close to her heart. The album, recorded at St George’s Bristol, showcases her inimitable and timeless sound.
Ralph Vaughan Williams: Discoveries
Roderick Williams (baritone), Jennifer Johnston (mezzo-soprano), BBC Symphony Orchestra, Martyn Brabbins
This album contains four world-première recordings: Three Nocturnes sung by Roderick Williams, A Road all Paved with Stars (an orchestral piece arranged by Adrian Williams from the opera, The Poisoned Kiss), the Four Last Songs sung by Jennifer Johnston, and a reconstruction of the score for the film Stricken Peninsula.
Jonas Kaufmann (tenor), Orchestra del Teatro Massimo di Palermo, Asher Fisch
Jonas Kaufmann returns with an album of favourite Italian songs - his own personal homage to a culture where the influence and beauty of opera are felt far beyond the walls of the opera houses. It features immortal songs such as Con te partirò, Parla Più Piano from The Godfather, Caruso, and many more, recorded in Palermo with conductor Asher Fisch and the Orchestra del Teatro Massimo di Palermo.
Shostakovich: String Quartets Nos. 1-15 (6 CDs)
This set with the Brodsky Quartet, recorded live at Amsterdam’s Muziekgebouw, features Shostakovich’s fifteen string quartets.
The Royal Ballet: The Collection (15 DVDs)
Celebrating sixty years since the Royal Ballet was awarded its Royal Charter, this magnificent collection brings together twenty-two ballets spanning a decade of dance. From classics such as Giselle, Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker, through works by choreographers Frederick Ashton and Kenneth MacMillan, to contemporary classics by Christopher Wheeldon (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and The Winter’s Tale), this set illustrates the breadth of the Royal Ballet’s work.
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