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A Tribute to Janet

A Tribute to Janet


Britten:

Phantasy Quartet for Oboe & String Trio, Op. 2

Françaix:

Quartet for English Horn, Violin, Viola and Cello

Knussen:

Cantata

Mozart:

Oboe Quartet in F major, K370

Adagio for Cor Anglais and String Trio, K580a

completed by Nicholas Daniel


Nicholas Daniel (oboe)

Britten Oboe Quartet

The Britten Oboe Quartet here makes its recording debut with a programme of its core repertory. It naturally includes the great Mozart Quartet K.370 and Britten’s own Phantasy op.2, but also two pieces that have a special resonance for the distinguished oboist Nicholas Daniel, because they were commissioned and premiered by Janet Craxton (1929-81), his ‘beloved teacher’ and inspiration, and her London Oboe Quartet. Thus Oliver Knussen’s Cantata (1977) and the delightful Cor Anglais Quartet of Jean Françaix add further variety to a fascinating anthology that also features Nicholas Daniel’s own completion of Mozart’s elegiac fragment K580a.

“Daniel negotiates the Mozart Quartet with bright tone and nimble fingers and tongue, well coordinated in the challenging finale; the strings support him with neat phrasing and clear balance…and there are two exemplary accounts of two pieces written for the London Oboe Quartet in the 1970s” BBC Music Magazine, October 2017 ****

“performances throughout are simply beyond reproach in their keenly communicative instinct, deft aplomb and infectious dedication. Throw in top-notch production-values, and you have an absolute winner of a release” Classical Ear, 30th June 2017 *****

“delightful, varied and expertly played music” Financial Times, 29th June 2017 ****

“Making their recording debut, the quartet — with Daniel’s inimitably mellifluous oboe, and honouring his late teacher, Janet Craxton — present five works starting with Mozart’s sublime Oboe Quartet, crown of its genre.” Sunday Times, 9th July 2017

“The quartet give a wonderfully relaxed and refined account of the Mozart and a strikingly mysterious one of the Britten...Between the two, Daniel inserts his own completion of a Mozart fragment...In this version, it becomes a perfect encore piece.” The Observer, 28th June 2017 ****

“Quartet is delivered with refreshing piquancy and spirited energy. Daniel’s nimble brilliance dominates, but never at the expense of the full chamber ensemble experience. The autumnal Adagio takes us into a more subdued world, opening with prophetic similarity to the later, better-known Ave Verum” The Scotsman, 24th July 2017 ****

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Pärt: Kanon pokajanen

Pärt: Kanon pokajanen


Ode I

Ode III

Ode IV

Ode VI

Kontakion

Ikos

Ode VIII

Ode IX

Prayer after the canon


Cappella Amsterdam, Daniel Reuss

The 'Kanon Pokajanen' (Canon of Repentance), premiered in March 1998, is Arvo Pärt’s most monumental composition.

Its prolonged genesis, a meticulous process of assimilation of the text in Church Slavonic, and the austerity and subtlety of its style embody the same sincerity, the same spiritual and contemplative radiance as an icon painting.

He was commissioned by KölnMusic GmbH to write a work commemorating the 750th anniversary of the building of Cologne Cathedral. He finished it in 1997 and it premiered at Cologne Cathedral on March 17, 1998.

'Kanon Pokajanen' exhibits characteristics of Pärt's tinntinabular style and the piece remains almost exclusively in D minor, deviating only in particularly expressive passages and sometimes final cadences. Overall, the melodies and harmonies remain fairly static throughout.

Perhaps the greatest of the 'holy minimalists' [along with Henryk Górecki and Sir John Tavener] Arvo Pärt describes his encounter with the text and the history of setting this text to music thus: "Many years ago, when I first became involved in the tradition of the Russian Orthodox Church, I came across a text that made a profound impression on me although I cannot have understood it at the time. It was the Canon of Repentance.

Since then I have often returned these verses, slowly and arduously seeking to unfold their meaning. Two choral compositions (Nun eile ich...., 1990 and Memento, 1994) were the first attempts to approach the canon. I then decided to set it to music in its entirety-from beginning to end. This allowed me to stay with it, to devote myself to it; and, at the very least, its hold on me did not abate until I had finished the score. I had a similar experience while working on Passio.

It took over two years to compose the Kanon pokajanen, and the time "we spent together" was extremely enriching. That may explain why this music means so much to me"

“The Cappella Amsterdam, who recently gave us such an excellent Brahms disc, here give the most convincing impression of an eastern Orthodox choir that I think I’ve ever heard from a group of western Europeans. The upper voices are tight and totally on the note, while the basses anchor the whole performance with their dark, dreamy drone that is so intrinsic to the work’s success” MusicWeb International

“In striving to get to the essence of the words, Pärt has created ‘a precious island in the inner seclusion of our soul’, and Cappella Amsterdam under Daniel Reuss more than do justice to Kanon Pokajanen’s distilled purity and sublime beauty” Gramophone Magazine, January 2017

“This excellent recording of Arvo Pärt's Kanon Pokajanen shows exactly why his often slow-moving, stylistically austere music has developed such a strong, devoted audience...[Reuss] finds tempos that fluidly lead the listener forward, lightly riding the pulses and rhythms of Pärt's extremely precise word-setting, and achieving beautifully sifte interactions among Capella Amsterdam's 29 singers.” BBC Music Magazine, April 2017

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Refuge from the Flames

Refuge from the Flames

The Savonarola Legacy


includes

Allegri:

Miserere mei, Deus

Animuccia:

Iesu, sommo conforto

Alma, che si gentile

Che fai qui, core?

anon.:

Ecce quomodo moritur

Bettini:

Ecce quam bonum

Byrd:

Infelix ego

Clemens:

Tristitia obsedit me – Infelix ego

Ešenvalds:

Infelix ego

Jeune:

Tristitia obsedit me

MacMillan:

Miserere

Richafort:

O quam dulcis

Verdelot:

Letamini in Domino


ORA, Suzi Digby

Following the stunning success of their best-selling debut, Suzi Digby’s crack vocal ensemble ORA presents their new album: ‘Refuge from the Flames’. Dedicated to the legacy of Girolamo Savonarola, 15th century Dominican and religious reformer, this new CD further showcases ORA's commitment to bringing together Renaissance choral masterpieces and commissioned reflections from contemporary composers. ORA bring a wealth of experience that gilds these pieces, both new and old, into the lustrous works of art they truly are.

“We begin and end this second ORA album with two contrasting settings of the Miserere mei (Psalm 50, Vulgate). Over the centuries this text has inspired reflections by many Christian writers, none more influential than those by Girolamo Savonarola, and we have devoted much of this album to his extraordinary legacy. Central to the recording is Savonarola’s meditation on the psalm, 'Infelix Ego', written shortly before his execution. We present it here in William Byrd’s justly famous setting, and in a newly commissioned masterpiece by the Latvian composer Eriks Ešenvalds.” Suzi Digby OBE [artistic director & conductor]

“there are surprises awaiting you in this new recording … this is a beautiful performance of Allegri’s masterpiece, with a strongly devotional atmosphere to it. Suzi Digby’s tempo gives the music space to resonate, the engineers find an evocatively distanced acoustic in which to set the solo quartet, and the ORA singers’ thoughtful, introspective phrasing distils a sense of spirituality difficult to communicate on record” BBC Music Magazine, February 2017 ****

“Yet again this group shows its considerable skill not only in expressive interpretation but in clarity of lines, subtlety of expression, and an ability to maintain an introspective atmosphere throughout” Choir & Organ, January 2017 *****

“Do you hear the grain of the polyphony and its twisting strands in this performance? Yes, rather more than from the ultra-smooth Collegium Vocale Gent … Digby opens with Ben Byram Wigfield’s new edition of Allegri’s Miserere, not quite as radically different from the known version as Graham O’Reilly’s but sharing some of the Australian’s distilling features and one alluring chromatic restoration.” Gramophone Magazine, November 2016

“This is a programme that is as imaginative as it is varied. It has been thoughtfully conceived and the music is stimulating at every turn. As on their previous release, Suzi Digby and ORA prove themselves to be equally accomplished in music of the ‘Golden Age’ and in music of our own time. From start to finish the singing is superb and Digby and her ensemble lead the listener’s ear through the repertoire most persuasively” MusicWeb International, 8th December 2016

“there’s a great clarity vertically through the voices; there’s more warmth, there’s more personality on the sound than we get from some English choirs…[they] flourish in a slightly more soloistic style…it’s a thoughtfully assembled, beautifully sung recital” Record Review, 11th December 2016

“Everything here is heard to best advantage, thanks to the choir’s clean, supple singing under Suzi Digby’s direction.” The Observer, 27th October 2016 ****

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Johnson, C H: Considering Matthew Shepard

Johnson, C H: Considering Matthew Shepard


Conspirare, Craig Hella Johnson

Read David's exclusive interview with Craig Hella Johnson here.

Craig Hella Johnson leads Conspirare in this world premiere recording of his Passion 'Considering Matthew Shepard', his musical response to the tragic death of a young gay man who was beaten and subsequently died, and who has become an American icon and a symbol for hope and empowerment. This major new work for chorus, soloists and chamber ensemble sets a rich variety of texts by Lesléa Newman, Michael Dennis Browne, the composer himself and many others, leading us from anguish to understanding. Many Conspirare singers are featured as soloists, and the vocal group is joined by a small ensemble of strings, piano (Craig Hella Johnson), guitar, clarinet, and percussion.

“The sincerity of the composer’s response to Shepard’s life and the performers’ commitment is never in doubt. The choral singing (soloists are drawn from their rank) is excellent, committed and as engaging as one might expect.” Choir & Organ, January 2017 ****

“I’ve long admired Johnson’s work with Conspirare, both in established repertoire and relatively new work, and they give their all to this piece … their diction is impeccable throughout … Harmonia Mundi have also done themselves proud by deciding that the work was worthy of a recording. I agree with them … I found it musically, artistically and spiritually very successful, and I recommend it” MusicWeb International, October 2016

“Conspirare are absolutely wonderful in this, the quality of the voices, the solos … it’s a superb choir and they have a chameleon quality vocally, they have to inhabit so many different styles from contemporary choral through gospel, through jazz, through funk, and they’re singing as very credible soloists as well as this beautifully blended ensemble” Record Review, 11th December 2016

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20th Century Cello Works

20th Century Cello Works


Amoyel:

Itinérance

Bacri:

Suite No. 4, Op. 50

dedicated to Emmanuelle Bertrand

Britten:

Suite No. 3 for cello solo, Op. 87

Cassadó:

Suite for Solo Cello

Crumb, G:

Cello Sonata

Dutilleux:

Trois strophes sur le nom de Sacher

Henze, H:

Sérénade

Kodály:

Sonata for Solo Cello, Op. 8

Ligeti:

Sonata for Cello solo


Emmanuelle Bertrand (cello) & Pascal Amoyel (piano)

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Philip Glass: In the Summer House, Mad Rush

Philip Glass: In the Summer House, Mad Rush

and Nico Muhly: Four Studies, Honest Music


Glass, P:

In the Summer House

Mad Rush

Muhly:

Studies (4)

Honest Music


Angela Chun (violin), Jennifer Chun (violin), Nico Muhly (piano)

This recital of music especially written or arranged for duo violinists Angela and Jennifer Chun highlights the personal and professional connections between Philip Glass – represented here as a miniaturist – and Nico Muhly, a longtime colleague and admirer of Glass’s work.

“uhly’s silvery, luminous Four Studies were written for Angela and Jennifer Chun, and are a highlight of their sensitively played minimalist duo-violin disc.” BBC Music Magazine, August 2016 ****

“Angela and Jennifer Chun’s violin lines are interwoven around shimmering drones generated by Muhly on piano and keyboard to create effective soundscapes…the Chun duo’s sensitive and delicate playing imparts at times ethereal and transcendental qualities to the [Glass]” Gramophone Magazine, July 2016

“This disc of music for two violins, agilely played by Angela and Jennifer Chun, highlights [Glass and Muhly's] strongly individual voices.” The Guardian, 24th April 2016 ***

“The two violinists weave the rippling arpeggios, drones and extended melodic lines of Glass’s Mad Rush into something rich and magisterial, with clear textures and rich, focused sound…the Chuns’ playing has a theatricality of its own, vivid and emotionally gripping” The Strad, August 2016

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Haec dies: Music for Easter

Haec dies: Music for Easter


Bassano, G:

Dic nobis

Byrd:

Haec dies a 6 (Cantiones Sacrae 1591)

Pascha nostrum

Hadley, P:

My beloved spake

Haller, M:

Surrexit Pastor bonus

Lasso:

Aurora Lucis Rutilat

Surrexit Pastor bonus

Magnificat Super Aurora Lucis Rutilat

Lhéritier:

Surrexit pastor bonus

Martin, M:

Haec dies

world premiere recording

Palestrina:

Terra tremuit

Rachmaninov:

Dnes’ spaseniye

Scheidt:

Surrexit Christus hodie

Stanford:

Ye Choirs of New Jerusalem, Op. 123

Taverner:

Dum transisset Sabbatum I

Vaughan Williams:

Easter (No. 1 from Five Mystical Songs)

Wesley, S S:

Blessed be the God and Father


Matthew Jorysz (organ)

Clare College Choir, Graham Ross

The Choir of Clare College, Cambridge and director Graham Ross continue their series of music for the church year with a sequence for Easter Day that spans five centuries and explores the rich tapestry of repertoire from across the European continent.

“These are, all told, performances of real quality and intelligence, by a choir which has carved a highly distinctive niche for itself amid the Oxbridge scramble” BBC Music Magazine, May 2016 ****

“I love this recording; the selections and also the way you’ll find the same Easter texts set by different composers alongside one another. Excellent singing, it’s a lovely recording as well from sound engineer producer and editor John Rutter.” CD Review, 19th March 2016

“The tone is predominantly uplifting in its celebration of the Resurrection — lively rhythms in settings of “Haec dies” by Byrd and the contemporary Matthew Martin, heartwarming English harmonies from Hadley and Stanford. The choir ends with virtuoso singing in Lassus’s Magnificat octavi toni super “Aurora lucis rutilat”, like a slightly madcap encore.” Financial Times, 18th March 2016

“[Graham Ross] has taken the Oxbridge model of purity and precision – solid performances of core repertoire – and spiced it with an intelligent, unexpected approach to programming…light on their feet and silvery-bright in tone, the choir romp through Bassano’s Dic nobis Maria and Byrd’s setting of the title text…[and]Lhéritier’s Surrexit pastor bonus offers a moment of contemplative respite – poised and beautifully shaped.” Gramophone Magazine, May 2016

“A good deal of thought has gone into the planning of this programme. Equally, it’s obvious that the performances have been scrupulously prepared. Despite the annual change of personnel that is inevitably part and parcel of collegiate choirs the Clare College choir achieves remarkable consistency – and excellence. The performances here are in the best traditions of the house... This is a most desirable collection of Easter music.” MusicWeb International, March 2016

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Upheld by Stillness

Upheld by Stillness

Renaissance gems and their reflections - Volume 1: Byrd


Bray, C:

Agnus Dei

world premiere recording & ORA commission

Byrd:

Quomodo cantabimus

Mass for five voices

Ave verum Corpus

L'Estrange:

Show me, deare Christ

world premiere recording & ORA commission

Monte, P:

Super flumina Babylonis

Panufnik, R:

Kyrie after Byrd

world premiere recording & ORA commission

Park:

Upheld by stillness

world premiere recording & ORA commission

Pott:

Laudate Dominum

world premiere recording & ORA commission

Williams, Roderick:

Ave Verum Corpus Re-imagined

world premiere recording & ORA commission


ORA, Suzi Digby (artistic director and conductor)

Read Presto's complete review of this disc here, and David's exclusive interivew with Suzi Digby here.

Founded in 2014, ORA was born out of a belief that we are in a second golden age of choral music, matching that of the Renaissance. With this in mind, the choir’s performances and recordings showcase classic masterpieces of Renaissance choral music alongside reflections from contemporary composers. The musicians of ORA bring with them a wealth of choral experience that we hope shows these pieces, both new and old, as the stunning works of art that they truly are. Commissioning new choral works and championing contemporary composers is very important to ORA, and the group has a firm commitment to regular commissioning from a wide selection of composers. This ranges from more established and prominent names to lesser-known but equally exciting discoveries. ORA, in conjunction with its affiliate patron’s group ORA100, has a clear programme in place for creating a substantial portfolio of contemporary commissions. ORA looks forward to recording and performing all of these works but also hopes that they will provide other vocal groups with a wealth of repertoire for generations to come.

“ORA is made up of some of the UK’s finest consort singers, sitting to my ears somewhere between The Sixteen and Tenebrae…The melancholy severity of Byrd’s original is beautifully measured, ORA supplying some of the flexibility and relish for the unfolding harmonies I sometimes miss from The Sixteen’s recording … I’ll be listening eagerly to see if volume 2 is done with such a sure touch.” CD Review, 13th February 2016

“ORA has taken as the starting point for its first album the glorious perfection of William Byrd’s polyphony, sung here with equal perfection … This CD is superb and together with these exemplary performances should receive many accolades.” Choir & Organ, May/June 2016

“Even if one already possesses one or more versions of Byrd’s Mass for Five Voices – and it is a work which invites and can bear any number of interpretations – it is well worth owning the disc under review, to hear the Mass in this accomplished performance by ORA in the company of some outstanding modern compositions which respond to it…be tempted, give in” Early Music Review, 20th March 2016

“immaculate performances … Panufnik’s ethereal Kyrie features intense harmonic shifts and long lines seamlessly delivered by the singers … Brilliantly showcased by ORA, all the new works should be snapped up for performance by other choirs.” Early Music Today, June/August 2016

“Set against the blanched purity of a group such as The Tallis Scholars, ORA's tone is more off-white - chill taken off by the character in these youthful voices. Digby's direction is about as interventionist as you can get in this repertoire without being mannered...Six premieres give this disc plenty of musical meat but what's surprising is the near-unanimity of the new works' sound worlds.” Gramophone Magazine, March 2016

“Only those lovers of Byrd for whom mingling the old and new is anathema can fail to be impressed by this new recording. Others should not hesitate. I hope that this album succeeds as it deserves to do and look forward with interest to the forthcoming sequels” MusicWeb International, February 2016

“Byrd’s great Mass for Five Voices provides the impetus for five of the six new commissions here, and it’s given complete and in sequence on the recording in a well-balanced and lovingly shaped performance of superb clarity which reveals every inner detail that the contemporary composers later take up and develop in their homages...for me it was Alexander L’Estrange’s Show me, deare Christ that made the biggest impact.” Katherine Cooper, Presto Classical, 12th February 2016

“In bold projects like this, the ever-reliable English choral tradition is renewed again.” The Guardian, 17th April 2016 ****

“a musical comet … you’ll go a long way to hear singing this good. Truly, this is British choral music’s new golden age.” The Independent on Sunday, 14th February 2016

Presto Disc of the Week

12th February 2016

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Elena Langer: Landscape With Three People

Elena Langer: Landscape With Three People


Langer, E:

Landscape With Three People

Snow

The Storm Cloud (Tucha)

Two Cat Songs

Ariadne

Stay O Sweet


Anna Dennis (soprano), William Towers (countertenor), Nicholas Daniel (oboe), Roman Mints (violin), Meghan Cassidy (viola), Kristine Blaumane (cello), Robert Howarth (harpsichord), Katya Apekisheva (piano)

A selection of chamber works by Elena Langer (b.1974, Moscow), notable for their playful counterpoint and delicate textures. The London-based composer delights in exploring the endless soundworlds of voices and instruments.

'Landscape With Three People' dates from 2013, with texts by poet Lee Harwood.

Elena moved to London to complete her degrees first at the Royal College of Music and then at the Royal Academy of Music. She has studied with Julian Anderson, Simon Bainbridge, Gerard McBurney and taken lessons with Sofia Gubaidulina (Centre Acanthes, France), Dmitri Smirnov, Jo Kondo and Jonathan Harvey. In 2002 and 2003 Elena was the first ever composer-in-residence at the Almeida Theatre, London.

She has received commissions and performances from organisations such as The Royal Opera House's ROH2, Zurich Opera, Carnegie Hall, The Britten and Strauss Festival in Aldeburgh, Park Lane Group, St. Petersburg's Music Spring, Chamber Music Series "XX/XXI" of the Bayerische Staatsoper (Germany). This recording project was generously funded by Blyth Valley Chamber Music, the Ralph Vaughan Williams Trust and a large number of individuals. The new CD will be launched in parallel with the first public performances in Cardiff of the composer’s 'Figaro Gets A Divorce', a new opera for Welsh National Opera under David Pountney.

“This is the first disc solely dedicated to the music of Elena Langer and it offers and exquisitely performed showcase of her vocal-chamber works…here the human voice is also centre-stage in music of crystalline, bright purity…the refined voices of Anna Dennis and William Towers intertwine with moving lyricism…Dennis inhabits every corner of the lamenting, lovesick Ariadne in her thorny, freewheeling monologue” BBC Music Magazine, April 2016

“[Langer] is a natural dramatist to her fingertips; everything she touches it just tingles with storytelling … it’s got a lovely texture because of those baroque resources … I feel the spirit of Britten is there… I really love the quality of the voices here, it’s beautifully performed” CD Review, 05/03/2016

“[Landscape with Three People] nimble and light, sensual without forcing the point, folksy but not quite fey; whimsical, in the deconstructed manner of Berio or Nono. The two voices lilt together [and]…the performance is excellent — especially from Dennis, whose voice is beautifully grainy but still laced with metal. The album also contains older Langer songs including the haunting Russian lament Tucha and a feverish 17-minute monologue called Ariadne.” The Guardian, January 2016 ****

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Pablo Neruda: The Poet Sings

Pablo Neruda: The Poet Sings


Grantham:

La canción desesperada

Kirchner, S:

Tu sangre en la mía Soneto 53

Ratcliff:

Ode to Common Things


Conspirare and Conspirare Chamber Players, Craig Hella Johnson

Craig Hella Johnson leads Conspirare in this vibrant tribute to revered Chilean poet and statesman Pablo Neruda (1904-1973), whose life-affirming poetry is the inspiration for these captivating choral settings by Donald Grantham,

Shawn Kirchner and Cary Ratcliff, all recorded here for the first time.

"In this recording, Conspirare focuses its attention and exploration on the greatly revered Chilean poet Pablo Neruda (1904-1973), whose poems have stirred souls around the world. I have heard more than one passionate reader exclaim “Neruda IS music!” Neruda’s personal universe and the many realms of feeling, color and texture he envisaged with his words have inspired many artists to respond with new creations. It is our hope that the extraordinary musical settings by Cary Ratcliff, Shawn Kirchner, and Donald Grantham can serve as a conduit for an ever deepening experience with this sublime and powerful poetry. For the uninitiated, may it serve as a portal to his art." Craig Hella Johnson

“The teeming variousness of Neruda's litany is fluidly communicated in Conspirares's alert performance. Elsewhere in the cycle the vibrant contributions of soprano Lauren Snouffer are particularly impressive, as is the sense of pregnant reverie distilled by conductor Craig Hella Johnson in the central 'Ode to the guitar'.” BBC Music Magazine, December 2015

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