Presto News - 16th December 2016
Presto Personal Favourites from 2016
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 feature everything that excites us 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!
This may well be my personal Disc of the Year. Everything about this recording just sounds so ‘right’ - the clarity of textures, the beautiful phrasing, the natural and distinct voice-leading, the rhythmic vitality… indeed it is hard to find any element of this disc which isn’t perfection itself.
Murray Perahia’s innate musicianship, completely free of any mannerisms or distractions, demands repeated listening: you never tire or get bored, but hear new and charming subtle details at every turn.
Quite possibly the most rewarding disc you could ever hear; I guarantee you will not be disappointed.
Bach, J S: French Suites Nos. 1-6, BWV812-817
Murray Perahia (piano)
This release was a tremendous discovery for me in 2016 - and is now one of my favourite recordings of the last several years. Andrew Parrott and his Taverner Choir & Players have given us many vibrant and vital recordings over the last three decades, none finer than this. With Taverner's Western Wynde Mass as its cornerstone, this recording also ventures into the Court Music of Henry VIII via English composers William Cornysh and Hugh Aston.
I dare to say that The Western Wynde is a choral masterpiece and this interpretation was rightly lauded at the 2016 Gramophone Awards with the Early Music Award. There is superb singing throughout, incisive and brisk, both from the choir and from Emily Van Evera and Charles Daniels. This recording is such a delight - a really special discovery - bringing this music alive once again for a new generation of listeners. You will certainly enjoy it!
Western Wind: Music By John Taverner & Court Music For Henry VIII
Emily Van Evera (soprano), Charles Daniels (tenor), Taverner Choir & Players, Andrew Parrott
With repertoire ranging across four centuries, this delightfully eclectic collection of Shakespeare settings has to be one of the most outstanding musical offerings marking the 400th anniversary of The Bard’s death this year.
Bostridge is every bit as compelling in the lute-songs of Shakespeare’s near-contemporaries (where, to my ears, his astringent timbre and often quirky way with the text stave off any excessive Merrie England tweeness) as he is in the more austere territory of Tippett and Stravinsky; as with their joint celebration of Britten’s 100th birthday back in 2013, Antonio Pappano’s exuberance offsets Bostridge’s introspective delivery quite beautifully, and classy contributions from guests including the lutenist Elizabeth Kenny and violist Lawrence Power make for something rich and strange indeed.
Ian Bostridge (tenor), Antonio Pappano (piano), Elizabeth Kenny (lute)
Whether or not you agree with the principle of musicologist Deryck Cooke producing a performing version of Mahler's unfinished Tenth Symphony, there's no denying that this live recording from the Seattle Symphony Orchestra under Thomas Dausgaard is a stunning, emotionally-draining performance. It covers every extreme, with the first movement alone moving effortlessly between the desolate, searching violas in the opening bars, to a gloriously rich tone from the horns, trombones, and strings in the main section, and then the most shattering, savagely dissonant climax towards the end.
With its ever-changing time signatures, the second-movement Scherzo must be one of Mahler's most fiendish movements to perform, but the Seattle players don't put a foot wrong. The central Purgatorio movement is genuinely creepy, and Dausgaard navigates the shifting moods of the fourth movement with ease. Finally, the last movement, after its opening salvo of bass drum thwacks and lugubrious tuba phrases, moves into one of Mahler’s most affecting melodies, played with touching poignancy by the orchestra’s principal flute. A magnificent recording.
Mahler: Symphony No. 10 in F sharp major
Seattle Symphony Orchestra, Thomas Dausgaard
Steve Reich, who turned 80 this year, has had (and continues to have) a profound influence on the direction of American classical music. This finely-polished album from the percussion section of the LSO showcases three of his compositions – the exquisitely simple Clapping Music, the mesmerising Music for Pieces of Wood, which sees the humble claves come into their own and create a biting and powerful sound-world, and lastly his well-known Sextet, whose rhythmic and tonal complexity exemplifies Reich’s ensemble writing.
The constantly-shifting pulses of both Music for Pieces of Wood and the Sextet require a level of musical feeling that goes far beyond what ‘conventional’ works demand, and it’s testament to the LSO musicians’ skill that the furious mental work going on beneath the surface is completely undetectable - the rhythmic compass is always rock-solid, allowing Reich's interlocking cells to work their magic.
Reich: Clapping Music & other works
LSO Percussion Ensemble
Presto Interview – The King's Singers at Christmas
The King's Singers are widely regarded as one of the most accomplished and versatile a cappella groups active today; with a long history that has seen many changes of lineup and style, they nevertheless maintain their reputation for the highest musical standards.
David talks to the King's Singers' bass Jonathan Howard about their latest album, which shows off the fruits of the group's recent exploration of jazz and swing.
Presto Interview – Osmo Vänskä on Sibelius
Osmo Vänskä's recordings of his fellow countryman Sibelius's symphonies with the Minnesota Orchestra have won considerable critical acclaim; the final instalment in July impressed us here at Presto so much that it found its way into our Top 10 Discs of the Year!
Katherine caught up with Osmo to talk about his relationship with Sibelius, and how his approach to this music has changed since his previous Sibelius cycle two decades ago.
December 2016 Hi-Res Roundup
David introduces the next in our new series of articles picking out the very best of our Hi-Res downloads - now numbering over seven thousand albums and growing all the time.
Read on for new releases, recent reissues of the great performances of the last century, and recordings of the core repertoire without which no library would be complete - all in glorious Hi-Res sound!
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.
Haydn: 107 Symphonies (36 CDs)
The Academy of Ancient Music, Christopher Hogwood, Frans Brüggen, Ottavio Dantone
This is a major milestone for understanding the music of Joseph Haydn: for the first time, his complete symphonies can now be heard in historically-informed performance style, on period instruments. The set features two of the most prominent period instrument pioneers: the late Christopher Hogwood, and Frans Brüggen. It also includes four newly-recorded symphonies by Accademia Bizantina under Ottavio Dantone.
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.
Maurizio Pollini: Complete Recordings on Deutsche Grammophon (55 CDs & 3 DVDs)
The exclusive relationship between Maurizio Pollini and DG began in 1971. During the course of this amazing collaboration, Pollini has produced an abundance of albums which continue to be viewed as benchmarks – from Bach, Schumann and Schubert to Chopin and Beethoven. This luxurious set includes the first ever release of Prokofiev’s Third Piano Concerto with the NHK Symphony Orchestra under Maxim Shostakovich (recorded in Tokyo in 1974).
Sibelius: Symphonies Nos. 1-7 (5 SACDs & 1 Blu-Ray Audio)
London Symphony Orchestra, Sir Colin Davis
Colin Davis's cycle of the complete symphonies on LSO Live has been described as possibly "the finest Sibelius cycle on disc" by The Observer, and is presented here as a complete SACD Hybrid and Pure Audio Blu-ray collection, adding works such as Kullervo, Pohjola’s Daughter, and The Oceanides (the latter previously only available as part of the limited edition 'Sir Colin Davis Anthology').
L’Oiseau-Lyre: Medieval & Renaissance (50 CDs)
This set presents some of the most significant Medieval & Renaissance albums recorded by L’Oiseau-Lyre, ranging from anonymous thirteenth-century hymns to Dowland’s Lachrimae. Included are six albums new to CD, plus a 200-page booklet featuring historical overviews of the recorded works and a history of the label.
The LSO Dvorak Kertesz Recordings (9 CDs & 1 Blu-Ray Audio)
London Symphony Orchestra, Istvan Kertesz
Kertész's recordings from the 1960s with the London Symphony Orchestra of Dvořák's symphonies are widely regarded as definitive interpretations. Decca have returned to the original tapes to present this audiophile edition on two formats: nine traditional CDs and one High Fidelity Pure Audio Blu-ray disc, enabling true 24-bit playback of the entire audio contents at the highest-possible audio quality.
Leontyne Price - Prima Donna Assoluta (22 CDs)
This collection of ten opera recordings celebrates one of the greatest sopranos of the twentieth century. Nineteen of the twenty-two CDs included here have been newly remastered from the original analogue tapes using 24 bit / 96 kHz technology.
Jascha Heifetz: The Complete Stereo Collection Remastered (24 CDs)
Jascha Heifetz has been called the first and greatest of all virtuosos. Now all of his stereo recordings are being issued together in a single collection of 24 CDs, remastered from the original analogue tapes in 24-bit/192 kHz and DSD quality. The set includes a live recording of his last public performance, on 23rd October 1972 in Los Angeles.
Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli: Complete Recordings on Deutsche Grammophon (10 CDs)
In this edition Deutsche Grammophon brings together for the first time all the performances by Michelangeli that have appeared on the “Yellow Label”. Also included are the early recordings of Beethoven and Scarlatti that he made for Decca.
The Originals Box - Legendary Recordings Volume 2 (50 CDs)
This second volume celebrating Deutsche Grammophon's flagship series presents more legendary albums, including Dvořák’s New World Symphony with Fricsay, Stravinsky with Boulez, and many others, as well as three complete operas: Böhm’s Le nozze di Figaro, Rigoletto with Giulini, and Der Freischütz under Carlos Kleiber.
Claudio Arrau: The Complete Victor & Columbia Album Collection (12 CDs)
Claudio Arrau (1903–1991) was a singular figure among the great pianists of his time. His 1941–1952 American recordings for Victor and Columbia represent the pianist during one of the peaks of his long career. Ten of the discs have been newly remastered from the original analogue disks and tapes using 24bit/96 kHz technology, and the recording of Mozart’s Fantasia in C Minor, K475 from December 15, 1941 has been previously unreleased.
Elgar Remastered (4 CDs)
This release makes available valuable pressings from Elgar's personal library. It contains hitherto unheard discs - virtually the complete 1928 studio sessions of the Cello Concerto as well as many unused takes of major orchestral works and famous miniatures. These reconstructions reveal a new depth to these recordings, as well as new performances of the Cello Concerto and Symphony No. 1.
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