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Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

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Bach, J S: Brandenburg Concertos Nos. 1-6 BWV1046-1051 (Complete)

Bach, J S: Brandenburg Concertos Nos. 1-6 BWV1046-1051 (Complete)


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Hyperion Dyads - CDD22001

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Bach, J S: Christmas Oratorio, BWV248

Bach, J S: Christmas Oratorio, BWV248


Stephen Layton and the combined forces of Trinity College Choir Cambridge, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and an impressive line-up of soloists present a joyous rendition of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio. This six-part masterpiece covers the events of the nativity to Epiphany and beautifully evokes the pastoral atmosphere of the Gospels which is such an important part of the Christmas liturgy.

James Gilchrist has become one of the most admired Evangelists performing today, his limpid, flexible tone and great musicianship bringing the stories thrillingly to life.

Read Presto's complete review of this disc here.

“the playing of the OAE brings great distinction to this recording...Right from the opening chorus of Cantata I one notes clarity and vigour in [the choir's] singing...Gilchrist is an admirable choice as the Evangelist...I found his narration beautifully nuanced, sensitive and characterful...This stylish and committed performance is one that renews again one’s awe at the genius of Bach.” MusicWeb International, 8th November 2013

“the 38 mixed voices of Trinity College Choir [are] very well trained, especially in matters of firm text enunciation...the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment sounds thoroughly at home (David Blackadder gives a very suave trumpet solo in 'Grosser Herr'), and Stephen Layton conducts with care and expertise.” Gramophone Magazine, November 2013

“The fact that the music seems to course through the very veins of the singers and players, not to mention Layton himself, is one of the qualities that make this Christmas Oratorio such a telling, affecting and inspiring experience, judiciously balancing jubilation, devotion and contemplation.” The Telegraph, 28th November 2013 *****

“Layton unwraps it with all due festive pomp and circumstance...In a work incontestably smitten with the alto voice, Iestyn Davies triumphs...Gilchrist's relaxed and lyrical Evangelist maintains the narrative flow...Crisp choral singing and exquisite accompaniment, this is a decidedly welcome addition to anyone's Christmas stocking.” BBC Music Magazine, Christmas Issue 2013 ****

“Layton and his orchestral players begin with tremendous verve, but there is infinite variety in this seasoned Bach conductor’s trajectory of the six cantatas with the lively, mixed-voice Trinity choir — singing in excellent German — and elite British soloists...Gilchrist’s Evangelist here could hardly be bettered among his compatriots, incisively declaimed and subtly nuanced.” Sunday Times, 22nd December 2013

“There’s a real sense of jubilation right from the opening chorus; the young mixed-voice choir sing with verve and immaculately crisp diction, and the chorales are phrased with tender loving care...The soloists are also top-drawer...Davies’s limpid alto arias are simply some of the finest accounts on disc.” Katherine Cooper, Presto Classical, 2nd December 2013

“An enthralling disc...I was most impressed with the soloists, particularly James Gilchrist’s eloquent Evangelist and Matthew Brook’s resonant bass, and by some brilliant playing from the OAE – their exultant trumpets and timpani open and close the oratorio in a blaze of festive jubilation.” Early Music Today

Presto Disc of the Week

2nd December 2013

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Hyperion - CDA68031/2

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Bach, J S: English Suites Nos. 1-6, BWV806-811

Bach, J S: English Suites Nos. 1-6, BWV806-811


With the English Suites (the 'English' is not Bach's and there is nothing particularly English about them) Angela Hewitt all but completes her survey of Bach's keyboard works (there will be one further CD mopping up various odds and ends). These six suites, along with the French Suites and the six Partitas, present Bach's mature thoughts on the standard baroque suite of dances and as such are the greatest examples of the form. Unlike the smaller scale French Suites the English all begin with a large-scale prelude, often rather concerto-like and very virtuosic; these are works for a very accomplished professional player rather than the amateur that much keyboard music of the 18th century would have been aimed at. Angela Hewitt rises to all the challenges in her usual superb style and needless to say these performances will meet with the acclaim of her previous Bach recordings.

“if you've ever shuddered at the extremes of expression, interpretation, tempi and noises-off in Gould's Bach, then Hewitt should be a profound pleasure...That's not to say that there isn't effervescent, energetic playing - there's plenty, but while brisk tempi are allowed, there's no rush, which gives Hewitt time to let every voice speak, and for her ornamentation to be impeccably delivered.” Andrew McGregor, bbc.co.uk, 30th November 2003

Building a Library

First Choice - January 2004

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Hyperion - Angela Hewitt Bach - CDA67451/2

(CD - 2 discs)

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Bach, J S: Goldberg Variations, BWV988

Bach, J S: Goldberg Variations, BWV988


This is very special. All of Angela Hewitt's Bach recordings to date have been made in Germany on her favourite piano and with her chosen producer, Ludger Böckenhoff. For this recording of the Goldbergs, a work for which she has especial reverence, Angela inspected several venues in Britain. Accordingly she and Ludger, the piano and piano technician Gerd Finkenstein, travelled from Germany to London's Henry Wood Hall where no fewer than five days were allocated to record the work. Finally satisfied artistically, Angela finished the recording at the end of the fifth day, after which she went home for a bath and something to eat. Everybody then went back to HWH in the middle of the night and recorded the whole thing again, without a break. After a few final adjustments in the editing room, that is the performance which appears on this disc.

All repeats are observed.

“Name your leading interpretative preferences in the Goldberg Variations, and there's bound to be someone on disc who expresses them.
Leaving aside numerous harpsichord versions, the current catalogue is notably rich in colourful piano alternatives. Two things strike you about Hewitt's Goldbergs from the start: first, that she can summon many dynamic grades simultaneously; and second, that her variations between repeats aren't restricted to matters of voicing.
For example, in Variation 13, she accelerates her phrases as if caught on a spontaneous impulse, then relaxes for the response. When she plays the variation's first half again she significantly modifies her tone and rubato, then opts for a more formal approach to the second half. All this in just over four and a half minutes! Her mastery of the keyboard is exemplary.
She can launch an elegant staccato or allow one voice to weave an ivy-like thread, while others argue above it. Beyond a seamless account of the pivotal Variation 25, Hewitt rattles off manic trills in Var 23 and favours a grand, free-wheeling approach for Var 29. This disc is strongly recommended.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

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Hyperion - Angela Hewitt Bach - CDA67305

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Bach, J S: Goldberg Variations, BWV988

Bach, J S: Goldberg Variations, BWV988

arranged for string trio by Dmitry Sitkovetsky


Leopold String Trio: Isabelle van Keulen (violin), Lawrence Power (viola) & Kate Gould (cello)

This is a welcome new disc from the brilliant Leopold String Trio, one of the stars in Hyperion’s chamber-music galaxy.

The Goldberg Variations stands as one of the greatest keyboard works ever written. Composed for a two-manual harpsichord, its universal musical language and distinct voicing has made it a popular subject for arrangement, including those for two pianos by Joseph Rheinberger, for woodwind quartet by Andrei Eshpai, for organ by Jean Guillou, and for solo guitar by József Eötvös, as well as the brilliantly re-imagined Gilded Goldbergs by Robin Holloway (recorded on Hyperion CDA67360). Dmitry Sitkovetsky’s arrangement was made in 1985 to celebrate the 300th anniversary of Bach’s birth, and it is dedicated to the memory of Glenn Gould, whose celebrated 1955 Columbia recording of the Goldberg Variations became an instant best-seller and introduced a whole generation to this extraordinary music. Sitovetsky’s arrangement produces fascinating and delightful results, especially in this vigorous and sensitive performance from the Leopold String Trio.

“The advantage of strings over keyboard is the ability to sustain and swell a note. The Leopolds exploit this in Variation VI 'Canon at the 2nd', burning into the juicy abrasions, which on keyboard only die away. The beautifully played pizzicato Variation XIX sounds like the harpsichord's lute-stop which a piano cannot even dream of.” Classic FM Magazine, October 2011 ***

“The Leopolds meet most of the challenges but rather float in and out of the grander scheme, thereby creating a performance of symmetrical, formalised units (all repeats applied). Many of the movements are strikingly effective and yet achieved without a particularly incremental sense of their place within an emotional map; it's mainly a case of responding afresh to each "new" event” Gramophone Magazine, Awards Issue 2011

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Hyperion - CDA67826

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Bach, J S: Goldberg Variations, BWV988

Bach, J S: Goldberg Variations, BWV988

2015 recording


Sixteen years have passed since Angela Hewitt’s first, justly celebrated, version of the ‘Goldbergs’. She here commits to record her ever-evolving response to a work which contains the ‘shadowed lesson of the whole world’, and which continues to play a central role in her life as an artist.

“More than any contemporary player, she manages to suggest the harpsichord’s plucking mechanism with her brilliant articulation — the trills of Variation 16!...her fluency makes the Goldbergs sound easy.” Sunday Times, 8th October 2016

“A perfect recording for her fans” Pianist Magazine, October 2016 ***

“The fingers are as formidably on the ball as ever – capable of the most tender translucency, of staccato leaps that ‘ping’, and able to differentiate and characterise several voices simultaneously with jaw-dropping felicity” BBC Music Magazine, Christmas 2016 *****

“A salutary reminder that recordings which one thought couldn’t be bettered, actually can - remarkable” International Piano, February 2017 *****

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Hyperion - CDA68146

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Bach, J S: Goldberg Variations, BWV988

Bach, J S: Goldberg Variations, BWV988


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Hyperion - CDA66589

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Bach, J S: Mass in B minor, BWV232

Bach, J S: Mass in B minor, BWV232


Lydia Teuscher (soprano), Ida Falk Winland (soprano), Tim Mead (countertenor), Samuel Boden (tenor), Neal Davies (bass)

Arcangelo, Jonathan Cohen

Jonathan Cohen talks to Presto's David Smith about the recording here.

Arcangelo and their inspirational director Jonathan Cohen, one of the brightest stars in the Early Music galaxy, present Bach’s great masterpiece in a glorious new recording made following a thrilling performance at the Tetbury festival.

Arcangelo are still a relatively new ensemble, but have already won one Gramophone Award and been nominated for another. The members of the choir and orchestra are performers of dazzling technical ability with a passion for faithful interpretation that goes far beyond historical understanding. Their previous recordings for Hyperion have been praised for their liveliness, colour and full string sound. In this new recording these aspects of their performance are alchemically combined with a feeling of the great solemnity of Bach’s monumental achievement.

“Cohen's rejection of the generic, within a grand and ravishing overview, is what propels an overwhelming sense here that this reading deserves to be taken very seriously...The work infrequently speaks with such gracefulness, freedom or conviction.” Gramophone Magazine, November 2014

“One might expect Cohen’s Arcangelo to opt for minimal personnel — although the trumpety movements suggest spectacular forces — but his choir of 20 can convey the inward spirituality of Et incarnatus est and the laudatory éclat of the Gloria and Et resurrexit with equal efficacy.” Sunday Times, 23rd November 2014

“Cohen's take side-steps Joshua Rifkin's premise that it should be sung one-to-a-part and fields a choir of 20...Cohen announces the Credo at an invigoratingly purposeful lick...Tim Mead's eloquently restrained Agnus Dei is crowned by a Dona nobis pacem whose blazing grandiloquence grips.” BBC Music Magazine, Christmas 2014 ****

“Gradually the ear responds to Jonathan Cohen’s musically intelligent mix of period and mainstream traditions, delivered by top musicians...This account will please, especially, anyone trapped between the extremes of Bach performance practice, unsure how to choose a B minor mass from the numerous options on offer.” The Observer, 30th November 2014 ****

“A performance that couldn’t be bettered.” MusicWeb International, April 2015

“[the] lines are finely shaped and their textures sound rich rather than heavy. This is a superbly conceived and executed set, absolutely joyous and gloriously colourful” Early Music Today, May 2015 *****

Presto Discs of 2014

Finalist

GGramophone Awards 2015

Finalist - Baroque Vocal

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - November 2014

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Hyperion - CDA68051/2

(CD - 2 discs)

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Bach, J S: Motets, BWV225-230

Bach, J S: Motets, BWV225-230


Bach’s six motets are among the greatest achievements of choral polyphony in the baroque period. This early recording by The Sixteen and Harry Christophers is a jewel in Hyperion’s catalogue, containing performances of utter joy, rendered in sonic splendour.

“Splendid. A wonderful achievement, one that only renews our admiration for Bach. It has been six, maybe twelve months since I heard a record that impressed me as much as this one. Don’t pass it by” American Record Guide

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Helios - CDH55417

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Bach, J S: Orchestral Suites Nos. 1-4, BWV1066-1069, etc.

Bach, J S:

Orchestral Suites Nos. 1-4, BWV1066-1069

Sinfonias from Cantatas No. 42, 29 & 209


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Hyperion Dyads - CDD22002

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