40 Years of the Gramophone Awards - up to 35% off

Over the past four decades, the Gramophone Awards have celebrated all that is best in recorded classical music - showcasing a huge number of great artists and ensembles, and reflecting changes and developments in the way we approach, make, and enjoy music.

To mark this year's 40th anniversary of the Gramophone Awards, we're offering up to 35% off previous winners of the coveted Gramophone Recording of the Year Award. This offer ends on 23rd October 2017 - it's the perfect opportunity to explore these outstanding performances (please note that discounts do not currently apply to downloads).

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Igor Levit plays Bach, Beethoven, Rzewski

Igor Levit plays Bach, Beethoven, Rzewski


Bach, J S:

Goldberg Variations, BWV988

Beethoven:

Diabelli Variations, Op. 120

Rzewski:

The People United Will Never Be Defeated!


Igor Levit (piano)

Read Presto's complete review of this disc here.

Following his landmark recordings, "Beethoven - The Late Piano Sonatas" and "Bach - Partitas", both of which has won him international acclaim, Igor Levit is now tackling another three major works: Bach's Goldberg Variations, Beethoven's Diabelli Variations, and Frederic Rzewski's Variations on "The People United Will Never Be Defeated".

It is testament to Igor Levit's invention and the command of his repertoire that in one release he is able to combine arguably two of history’s greatest sets of variations for the keyboard, complete alongside a classic of late 20th century piano music by contemporary composer Frederic Rzewski.

Levit comes with great pedigree when it comes to recording the works of Bach and Beethoven, with his 2013 Beethoven disc winning him the BBC Music Magazine Newcomer of the Year 2014 Award, the Royal Philharmonic Society’s Young Artist Award 2014 and the ECHO 2014 for Solo Recording of the Year. His second recording, J.S. Bach’s Six Partitas in 2014, was Gramophone’s Disc of the Month.

“If [the Rzewski] sounds potentially sprawling on paper, in Levit's hands it acquires remarkable coherence and a granite-like majesty...his variety of touch and colours [in the Goldbergs] is such that after the first four variations I found myself checking the booklet to make sure that there wasn't more than one instrument involved: there are sections which sound almost fortepiano-like in their clarity.” Katherine Cooper, Presto Classical, 16th October 2015

“few [recordings of the Rzewski] match Levit’s combination of supreme, sometimes breathtaking accuracy and his sustained intensity. The same sense of freshness and discovery runs through his Diabelli Variations...one of the most impressive aspects of the performance as a whole is how Levit holds the different aspects of this massive work in balance” The Guardian, 14th October 2015 *****

“There is, if you care to rationalise, a Russian depth of sound and eloquence of phrasing, tempered by Germanic intellectual grasp...Levit’s musical personality is as integrated and mature as his technique. And both of these are placed at the service of the music’s glory rather than his own.” Gramophone Magazine, November 2015

“[Levit] has the technical virtuosity and insight to make a magnificent display of the [Rzewski] variations...Even if you don’t subscribe to the agitprop politics, enjoy the immense sweep of one of the late 20th century’s greatest piano works...He characterises [the Diabellis] with rambunctious glee, brilliantly incisive and as nimble as a cat on a high wire, while keeping the music’s overall arch in sight...One imagines Beethoven playing it like this — in his dreams, anyway.” The Times, 4th December 2015 *****

“It’s a bold move, placing Mr. Rzewski’s 36 variations on “The People United Will Never Be Defeated!” as an equal partner to Bach’s Goldberg Variations and Beethoven’s Diabellis...Yet this urbane, consuming playing makes the argument persuasive. The Bach and Beethoven are very fine: clean and mature. The Rzewski is inspired...The piano and the man playing it become comrades at arms.” New York Times, 2nd December 2015

“In his recording of Bach's variations, Levit moves between Glenn Gould-like velocity, a sharp sense of period style and a delicacy of nuance and pedalling that evokes a different sort of tradition...As for Rzewski's great variations, Levit's attention to detail and tender lyricism reveal the music's nobility, as well as its anger and blistering energy. In all, this boxed set is a tremendous achievement.” The Telegraph, 24th November 2015 *****

“The [Goldberg] Aria sings without affectation as if to emphasise that what follows isn't about the theme but what happens to it...Unstarchy too is Levit's approach to Beethoven's Diabelli Variations...As for the Rzewski, never has 1970s agitprop sounded so compelling...Levit squares up to the exhilarating mix with pitch-perfect acuity and aplomb...Whatever follows, hang on tight: it should prove quite a ride.” BBC Music Magazine, January 2016 *****

Presto Disc of the Week

16th October 2015

Presto Discs of 2015

Winner

GGramophone Awards 2016

Record of the Year

GGramophone Awards 2016

Winner - Instrumental

GGramophone Magazine

Disc of the Month - November 2015

Building a Library

Also Recommended - June 2017

BBC Music Magazine

Disc of the month - January 2016

40 Years of the Gramophone Awards

Sony - 88875060962

(CD - 3 discs)

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Janacek: Káta Kabanová

Janacek: Káta Kabanová


Elisabeth Söderström (Katya), Peter Dvorsky (Boris), Nedezda Kniplová (Kabanicha), Vladimir Krejcik (Tichon), Libuse Márová (Varvara), Dalibor Jedlicka (Dikov), Jaroslav Soucek (Kuligin), Jitka Pavlová (Glasha), Gertrude Jahn (Feklusha)

Wiener Staatsopernchor & Wiener Philharmoniker, Sir Charles Mackerras

“Fabulous, surging Vienna Philharmonic playing, Elisabeth Söderström's poignant performance in the title role, and matchless Decca sound all combined to produce one of the truly classical opera recordings.” BBC Music Magazine, January 2012

“Charles Mackerras's ... long knowledge of the score has flowered into the richest account of it he has yet given ... he draws wonderful playing from the Vienna Philharmonic ... it is an outstanding operatic recording by any standards ... there is an understanding between conductor and singer, in the collaboration between Mackerras and Miss Söderström that articulates this beautiful and touching opera with unfailing eloquence.” Gramophone Magazine

“Söderström reigns supreme as the neurasthenic heroine of this claustrophobic domestic drama, with sumptuous playing from the Vienna Philharmonic and Mackerras supporting his leading lady with unstinting empathy on this 1977 recording.” Katherine Cooper, Presto Classical, May 2014

Presto Greatest Recordings

1970s

GGramophone Awards 1977

Record of the Year

40 Years of the Gramophone Awards

Decca - Originals - 4757518

(CD - 2 discs)

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Grieg - Songs

Grieg - Songs


Grieg:

Haugtussa, Op. 67 No. 1 'Det syng'

Haugtussa, Op. 67 No. 2 'Veslemøy'

Haugtussa, Op. 67 No. 3 'Blåbær-Li'

Haugtussa, Op. 67 No. 4 'Møte'

Haugtussa, Op. 67 No. 5 'Elsk'

Haugtussa, Op. 67 No. 6 'Killingdans'

Haugtussa, Op. 67 No. 7 'Vond Dag'

Haugtussa, Op. 67 No. 8 'Ved Gjætle-Bekken'

Seks Sange, Op. 48 No. 1 'Gruss'

Dereinst, Gedanke mein (No. 2 from Seks Sange, Op. 48)

Seks Sange, Op. 48 No. 3 'Lauf der Welt'

Seks Sange, Op. 48 No. 4 'Die verschwiegene Nachtigall'

Zur Rosenzeit (No. 5 from Seks Sange, Op. 48)

Seks Sange, Op. 48 No. 6 'Ein Traum'

En svane (No. 2 from Seks Digte af Henrik Ibsen, Op. 25)

Med en vandlije, Op. 25 No. 4

Fem Digte af John Paulsen, Op. 26 No. 1 'Et håb'

Våren, Op. 33 No. 2

Mens jeg venter (On the Water), Op. 60 No. 3

Barnlige sange, Op. 61 No. 3 'Lok'

Tolv Melodier til Digte af Aasmund Olavsson Vinje, Op. 33 No. 5 'Langs ei Å'

Fra Monte Pincio, Op. 39 No. 1

Hjertets Melodier af H. C.Andersen, Op. 5 No. 1 'To brune Øjne'

Hjertets Melodier af H. C.Andersen, Op. 5 No. 3 'Jeg elsker Dig'

Forårsregn (No. 6 from Seks Digte af Holger Drachmann, Op. 49)


Anne Sofie von Otter (mezzo soprano), Bengt Forsberg (piano)

GGramophone Awards 1993

Record of the Year

Presto CD

40 Years of the Gramophone Awards

DG Gramophone Awards Collection - 4761815

(Presto CD)

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Beethoven: Missa Solemnis in D major, Op. 123

Beethoven: Missa Solemnis in D major, Op. 123


A powerful, incisive reading that scales the heights of Beethoven's epic vision - James Jolly, Gramophone 1000th issue

“A disc that revealed Gardiner's Beethoven credentials but which also showed off his magnificent Monterverdi Choir as it edged into the 19th century. Another Record of the Year.” Gramophone Magazine, October 2008

GGramophone Awards 1991

Record of the Year

GGramophone Magazine

100 Greatest Recordings

40 Years of the Gramophone Awards

DG Archiv - 4297792

(CD)

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Schumann - String Quartets Nos. 1 & 3

Schumann - String Quartets Nos. 1 & 3


Schumann:

String Quartet No. 1 in A minor, Op. 41 No. 1

String Quartet No. 3 in A major, Op. 41 No. 3


“The vividness of the music owes much to these electrifying performances. Amazingly impressive” The Times

“The Zehetmair Quartet's coupling focuses the music's alternating wildness and fragility with altogether unique perception. Theirs is an agitated, combustible and loving view of Schumann, a credible trip into his troubled world that reflects older playing styles not by exaggerating or abandoning vibrato but by constantly varying tone, tempo, bow pressure and modes of attack. Aspects of this trend are usefully exemplified by their handling of the pensive second section of the Third Quartet's third movement, and by the way they negotiate the sudden, bloodless moderato passage that forms the coda of the First Quartet's finale. In the less consistent but more challenging First Quartet, minute variations in pulse and emphasis are consistently engaging, ie they enjoy maximum freedom within the law of the page. Contrapuntal passages that other quartets present as dry or self-conscious – at 2'36" into the first movement of No 1, for example, where the viola takes the initial lead – assume newfound meaning.
These aren't comfortable performances. They pass on cosmetic appeal and would rather grate and rail than pander to surface 'gloss'. So be warned. But they're profoundly beautiful in their truthful appropriation of music that can be both poignant and aggressive. Delicate, too, in places (Mendelssohn with added fibre); in fact more comprehensive as musical statements than most of us had previously suspected. That realisation is due almost entirely to the persuasive powers of these supremely accomplished, and realistically recorded, performances.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

GGramophone Awards 2003

Record of the Year

GGramophone Magazine

Disc of the Month - June 2003

40 Years of the Gramophone Awards

ECM New Series - 4721692

(CD)

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The Romantic Piano Concerto 11 - Scharwenka & Sauer

The Romantic Piano Concerto 11 - Scharwenka & Sauer


Sauer:

Piano Concerto No. 1 in E minor

Scharwenka, X:

Piano Concerto No. 4 in F minor, Op. 82


“A glitteringly worthy addition to the Hyperion series ... Stephen Hough exhibits dazzling flair in showpiece concertos by Sauer and Scharwenka – and plenty of stamina ... Hough plays throughout with exhilarating momentum and dazzling technical address. I doubt whether any CD has so many double octave passages as this, but he never wearies, and his response to both works is as many-sided as the music itself ... Not to be missed, on any account.” Classic CD

“This jewel in the crown in Hyperion's Romantic Piano Concerto series marries flawlessly composer, performance, recording and presentation. Scharwenka's Piano Concerto No 4 is a far cry from his early, ubiquitous success, the E flat minor Polish Dance. Grand, Lisztian ambitions are fulfilled and embellished in writing of the most ferocious intricacy; the tarantella finale in particular throws everything at the pianist, seemingly simultaneously. It's therefore hardly surprising that after early triumphs the Fourth Concerto fell into neglect. At its second performance, given in 1910 with Scharwenka as soloist and Mahler as conductor, it was described as being of a 'truly Dionysian and bewildering brilliancy', a phrase that encapsulates Stephen Hough's astonishing performance. For here is scintillating wit and ebullience. As magisterial as it's eartickling and affectionate, his playing glows with warmth in the third movement Lento, and pulses with the most nonchalant glitter in the finale; one guaranteed to strike down less intrepid and fluent spirits with St Vitus's dance.
Emil von Sauer's First Concerto has a style and content to make even the least susceptible listeners' heads nod and feet tap. The Cavatina is as luscious and enchanting as the finale is teasingly brief and light-hearted. Throughout, haunting melodies are embroidered with the finest pianistic tracery. Once again the performance is bewitching. In the Cavatina Hough's caressing, fine-spun tone and long-breathed phrasing are a model for singers as well as pianists, and in the finale there's a lightly deployed virtuosity that epitomizes his aristocratic style.
Though the spotlight falls unashamedly on the soloist in such music, the orchestra has no small part in the proceedings, and Lawrence Foster and the CBSO are superbly resilient and enthusiastic, with strings that sing their hearts out.
Sound and balance are exemplary. Stephen Heliotis's accompanying notes deserve separate publication for their wit and perspicacity.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

“At its second performance given in 1910 with Scharwenka as soloist and Mahler as conductor, it was described as being of a "truly Dionysian and bewildering brilliancy", a phrase that, lifted into our own times, encapsulates Stephen Hough’s astonishing performance” Gramophone Magazine

GGramophone Awards 1996

Record of the Year

40 Years of the Gramophone Awards

Hyperion - The Romantic Piano Concerto - CDA66790

(CD)

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Martin: Mass for Double Choir

Martin: Mass for Double Choir


Martin, F:

Mass for Double Choir

Passacaille for Organ

Pizzetti:

Messa di Requiem

De profundis


“These are magnificent performances.
Written in 1922, the Agnus Dei being added four years later, the Mass is one of Martin's most sublime compositions. Surprisingly it gains enormously from using boys' rather than female voices. It's a measure of James O'Donnell's achievement with Westminster Cathedral Choir that the gain in purity and beauty is never at the expense of depth and fervour.
This is an altogether moving and eloquent performance, often quite thrilling and always satisfying.
This disc brings us a fine performance by O'Donnell of the Passacaille and the Pizzetti Messa di Requiem, also composed in 1922. The received wisdom is that it is in his a cappella music that Pizzetti is at his finest; in his 1951 monograph Guido Gatti spoke of his setting as 'the most serene and lyrical of all... from Mozart's to Gabriel Faure's'. Serene and lyrical it most certainly is, and it will come as a revelation to those encountering it for the first time.
There is a fervour and a conviction about the Westminster performances of both the Requiem and the 1937 De profundis. The luminous tone this choir produce in both these inspired and masterly works will ring in your ears long after you have finished playing this splendidly recorded disc.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

“For connoisseurs of choral music this is an essential buy. Outstanding performances of two rarely heard 20th-century masterpieces.” Classic CD

“The Mass for Double Choir is one of Martin's purest and most sublime utterances. The version from the Westminster Cathedral Choir under James O'Donnell is the most outstanding. The boys produce marvellously focused tone of great purity and expressive power.” Penguin Guide, 2011 edition

GGramophone Awards 1998

Record of the Year

Penguin Guide

Rosette Winner

Building a Library

Also Recommended - March 2005

40 Years of the Gramophone Awards

Hyperion - CDA67017

(CD)

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The Romantic Piano Concerto 27 - Saint-Saëns

The Romantic Piano Concerto 27 - Saint-Saëns


Saint-Saëns:

Piano Concertos Nos. 1-5

Wedding Cake - Valse-Caprice for piano & strings, Op. 76

Rapsodie d'Auvergne for piano & orchestra Op. 73

Allegro appassionato for piano & orchestra Op. 70

Africa - Fantasie for piano & orchestra Op. 89


“If Saint-Saëns's idiom once answered – and maybe still does – to qualities fundamental to the French musical character, it must be said straight away that Hough sounds the complete insider. He commands the range of the big statements, whatever their character, as well as sparkle and panache, a sense of drama and seemingly inexhaustible stamina; and he can charm. Yet perhaps most delightful is the lightness and clarity of his decorative playing.
It's a bonus for the virtuoso passages not to sound hectic or overblown – for Saint-Saëns, virtuosity always had an expressive potential.
There's an air of manufacture about the writing sometimes, certainly, but as Hough knows, there must be nothing mechanical in its delivery.
Sweeping across the keyboard, dipping and soaring through the teaming notes, he flies like a bird. He manages to convey what makes these pieces tick: fine workmanship, fantasy, colour, and the various ways Saint-Saëns was so good at combining piano and orchestra. The orchestra has plenty to do. These scores are textbooks of lean but firm orchestration from which at least one major French composer learned (Ravel, another eclectic, who must have seen the 'old bear' as a kindred spirit). The days are past when the CBSO under Louis Frémaux was considered Britain's 'French' orchestra, but with Sakari Oramo it does splendidly here, playing alertly with its inspiring soloist as he does with it (another plus). The recording balances are fine, with lovely piano sound and plenty of orchestral detail in natural-sounding perspectives.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

“Marvellous performances of these delightful and ever inventive works from Stephen Hough, full of joy, vigour and sparkle, with Oramo and the CBSO acompanying spiritedly and with the lightest touch...An easy first choice for this repertoire.” Penguin Guide, 2011 edition

“With performances as persuasive as these from pianist Stephen Hough, it makes one wonder why these works aren't performed more often. My favourite is probably the fifth concerto, nicknamed the Egyptian, in which the joy that both Hough and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra under conductor Sakari Oramo bring to the last movement is quite palpable. A splendid set indeed, including other shorter works such as the Fantasy, Africa, partly written whilst Saint-Saëns was on an Egyptian cruise, recovering from a serious illness.” James Longstaffe, Presto Classical

Presto Favourites

Recommended Recording

GGramophone Awards 2008

Gold Disc

GGramophone Awards 2002

Record of the Year

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - November 2001

Penguin Guide

Rosette Winner

40 Years of the Gramophone Awards

Hyperion - The Romantic Piano Concerto - CDA67331/2

(CD - 2 discs)

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Bach Cantatas Volume 1

Bach Cantatas Volume 1

Cantatas for the Feast of St. John the Baptist & Cantatas for the First Sunday after Trinity


Bach, J S:

Cantata BWV167 'Ihr Menschen, rühmet Gottes Liebe'

Cantata BWV7 'Christ unser Herr zum Jordan kam'

Cantata BWV30 'Freue dich, erlöste Schar'

Cantata BWV75 'Die Elenden sollen essen'

Cantata BWV39 'Brich dem Hungrigen dein Brot'

Cantata BWV20 'O Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort'


The first issue in the long-awaited series of live recordings, made on the artists’ Bach Cantata Pilgrimage of 2000. The cantatas were performed on the feast days for which they were written and this series will be the first to reflect those couplings. The 2CD set is sumptuously packaged in a beautiful case-bound book, with stunning cover photos by Steve McCurry, detailed programme notes adapted from John Eliot Gardiner’s Pilgrimage Journal, and full sung texts and translations.

“The first release in Gardiner's 2000 Bach Cantata Pilgrimage, an extraordinary undertaking - a deeply moving experience that swept up the Record of the Year Award in 2005.” Gramophone Magazine, October 2008

“In 2000 John Eliot Gardiner commemorated the 250th anniversary of Bach's death with theBach Cantata Pilgrimage, a year-long European tour by the English Baroque Soloists and Monteverdi Choir that presented all of Bach's extant cantatas on the appropriate liturgical feast days. Here are the first two instalments of the complete cycle.
Soli Deo Gloria's presentation is first class. The CDs are cased in a handsomely designed hardbound book, complete with texts, translations and Gardiner's extensive, informative notes based on a journal he kept during the pilgrimage.
The interpretations are consistently fine – often superb, in fact – with surprisingly few wrong steps or disappointments, especially given the unusually gruelling performance schedule that produced them. Among the many mind-blowing, beautiful moments is the deliciously syncopated contralto aria from No 30, sung with poise by Wilke te Brummelstroete and graced by playing of magical delicacy from the EBS. And there's the extraordinary opening chorus of No 8, with its seemingly endless melodic tendrils, chiming flute part and plucked strings, sounding like a celestial dance. Special mention must be made of the artistry of tenor Mark Padmore, who maintains his sweet, ringingly clear tone even in the demanding leaps and roulades of his aria in No 95.
It's in delicate or intimate music that Gardiner shines most luminously, and some may find that he unduly emphasises the contemplative.
His thoughtful, refined approach is strikingly similar to Suzuki's cycle on BIS, though Gardiner's versions sound just a bit warmer.
Although his interpretations offer the finest attributes of period practice – transparency and litheness – there's a long-breathed musicality here that can be lacking in other accounts.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

GGramophone Awards 2005

Record of the Year

GGramophone Awards 2005

Winner - Baroque Vocal

GGramophone Magazine

Disc of the Month - March 2005

40 Years of the Gramophone Awards

SDG Gardiner Bach Cantatas - SDG101

(CD - 2 discs)

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Josquin: Missa Pange lingua & Missa La sol fa re mi

Josquin: Missa Pange lingua & Missa La sol fa re mi


Despres:

Missa Pange lingua

Missa La sol fa re mi

Gregorian Chant:

Pange lingua


“This is absolutely superb. We must accept that Josquin is unlikely to have heard this music with two women on the top line, but they do it so well that only a fundamentalist would mark the disc down for that. It should also be said that the least successful performance on the entire disc is in the opening Kyrie of this Mass where there's a certain brutality in the approach; and although The Tallis Scholars make much of the 'Benedictus' and the last Agnus Dei, there may still be better ways of doing it. On the other hand, as just one example among many, these were the first musicians to make the 'Osanna' truly successful and understand why Josquin should have chosen to compose it that way. But they sing even better in the Mass, La sol fa re mi. Again and again in the singing one has the feeling that Josquin's lines are projected with an understanding and clarity that have rarely been heard before. The La sol fare mi of the title denotes (among other things) the melodic passage which appears over 200 times in the course of the work with its intervals unchanged – which may not seem a recipe for the kind of music one would want to hear. But Josquin treats his material with such astonishing sophistication that you're rarely aware of the melodic fragment as such; and Phillips is scrupulously careful never to emphasise the melody except in places – such as the end of the second 'Osanna' – where it's clearly intended to work as an ostinato. This performance shows that the Lasol fa re mi belongs with the greatest works of its era.” Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

“The performances of these two Masses are absolutely superb. The dedication, discipline and skill required to produce such immaculate singing is quite remarkable...Even now, more than 25 years later, it still sounds fresh and new-minted.” MusicWeb International, 6th May 2013

GGramophone Awards 1987

Record of the Year

40 Years of the Gramophone Awards

Gimell Complete Josquin Mass Cycle - CDGIM009

(CD)

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Special: $12.75

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